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.

Up, Up, and Away TWTW # 67

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How often do you look up? I was in Oxford last week, and while I was waiting for a bus looked up to see a Red Kite riding the thermals overhead. I was a little surprised but did manage to fumble my phone out of my pocket and snap the picture to the left (you’ll have to take my word for it that the little blob in the clouds is said bird). It got me thinking however that we perhaps don’t look up as much as we should. When I got home, and got out of the car to open the garage door I looked up again to see a cormorant flying overhead. I’ve never seen one over the garden before, so a first for the garden bird list, and if I hadn’t looked up I would have missed it.

Robert Macfarlane wrote in The Wild Places about tree climbing and being above people:

Thirty feet up, near the summit of the beech, where the bark is smoother and silver, I reached what I had come to call the observatory: a forked lateral branch set just below a curve in the trunk. I had found that if I set my back against the trunk and put my feet on either tine of the fork, I could stay comfortable there.If I remained still for a few minutes, people out walking would sometimes pass underneath without noticing me. People don’t generally expect to see men in trees. If I remained still for longer, the birds would return. Birds don’t generally expect to see men in trees, either.

Go outside and look up! Feel free to let me know if you see anything you wouldn’t have otherwise in the comments.


This week has been one of travels, work meetings, and talk bookings.

I’ve had a sudden flurry of requests for talk bookings, including my first one for 2021. These have proved to be quite popular and I enjoy doing them, but I am wondering whether the coronavirus might put pay to some of the bookings I have coming up?

The coronavirus has also led to some interesting interactions at some of my work meetings, individuals not sure whether a handshake is an acceptable greeting and what’s supposed to happen instead. Most people seem to have settled for a knowing nod of the head and a hello.


I’m pleased to say that I think my sunroof fix on the car has been a success. I’m not counting my chickens just yet, but I did have to use the car on Thursday when it was raining quite heavily and apparently there has been no sign of the leak. I’m glad it was worth the effort to do, particularly as I spent the first couple of days of the week swathed in tiger balm patches, popping paracetamol every four hours and doing stretching exercises because I managed to crook my neck during the fixing of the sunroof. Fortunately this wore off by midweek. I’m hopeful therefore that the fix is a good one and I won’t have to go through that again anytime soon.


My social media abstention has continued. FOMO or Fear Of Missing Out, hasn’t really been a thing for me, so far at least. Anxiety levels are definitely less as I’m not founding myself being wound up quite so much by the stupidity of government and others. It has given me a chance to reflect on if I’ll go back to it and if I do what I’ll do differently. I have a few ideas but right now I’m just enjoying not being constantly picking up my phone or mindlessly scrolling through pictures on instagram.


My travelling this week has given me a lot of time to catch up on podcasts and finish my current audiobook The Unexpected Truth About Animals. I’ve also read a couple of regular books. One of my Christmas presents last year was Anthony Daniels autobiography I Am C-3PO – The Inside Story. This is all about his time playing the metallic robot in the Star Wars movies, and gives an interesting insight on that role and also some of the things that I wouldn’t have been aware of during the production of the original three movies.

The other book I’ve read is The Roo by Alan Baxter. My copy came signed by the author all the way from Australia, and it’s just a perfect little b-movie of a book. You should read all about how this little book came about on Alan’s blog.


In the week ahead, I have a birthday (and a day off) on Monday, a trip down to Somerset for a client meeting, but otherwise I’m planning on cracking on with some work at home.

Big Sunrises TWTW # 56

Hello! The morning light this week has been pretty amazing. I’ve been up early several times and enjoyed the sunrise. It’s also been an exceptionally busy and stressful week. A lot of family things happening with a backdrop of work, client meetings and associated craziness.

I’m glad I went ahead and made a start getting my new laptop set up, and if nothing else I am completely amazed by the battery life. Since I went freelance, I’ve never really had an “office” as such. The closest I get is my desks at home, but I’ll pretty much work wherever I have to. This week in particular I’ve been on the road and working from some unusual places. The laptop battery has kept going throughout, only needing to charge when I did get back home. The manufacturers quoted life is 13 hours and that doesn’t seem to be far off the mark.

The only tech downside this week has been the demise of my old printer. I don’t use one much but I do need one, and I’ve had to replace my old one for a newer model. Essentially the same machine, just with the current spec.


We watched the film Yesterday over the weekend. I think it’s a bit of a marmite film. I really enjoyed it, but Ann hated it. The premise of the film is that after a global power blackout no one except musician Jack Mailk – who had an accident at the exact moment of the blackout – can remember The Beatles or their music. When he realises this Jack uses his knowledge to become the next big thing by releasing the music of The Beatles himself. As I said you’ll probably either love it or hate it, but I think it’s worth a watch.


David Quammen’s blog has been active again with a couple of posts: Sphinx and Loss, Birds & Hope


On my travels this week I’ve mostly been listening to Rendezvous With Rama by Arthur C Clarke. As old and probably classic science fiction it was a great listen, I also have the second book in the series and have just started that.

I’ve also been listening to the first three episodes of The Whisperer in Darkness which I mentioned last week, and it’s got me hooked. Looking forward to the next instalments when they drop later on. The title, some of the characters and storyline are based on the H P Lovecraft short story of the same name, and I’ve been reading that on my kindle, but otherwise my reading has been a bit sporadic this week, I’ve been busy most of the time, and haven’t found the opportunity to really get into another book yet, so short stories are just my thing.


There seem to have been a lot of movie trailers or teasers dropped on the internet this week, here are a few of my favourites:


Because of the way YouTubes algorithms work, it also suggested the upload below, showing various camera angles of the bike stunt in the trailer and the Aston Martin chase scene.


Work this week has been a tale of the present and the future. I’ve been working on current client work this week, and have had a couple of potential projects come forward that would take me through to the end of the year and possibly towards the end of January. At one point I thought that I was going to have more work than I had days in January. It’s nice to be in such demand, I just need to make sure that I deliver against the tasks.


I managed to set a few hours in on the allotment on Saturday, the first time I’ve spent any significant time there for a couple of weeks. The weather and other commitments have kept me away, so it was good to back there. I’ve had a tarpaulin down to keep an area dry so that even in the worst of the rain it doesn’t become too swampy. It’s a simple deal, put the tarp down and leave until ready, then pull the tarp back and dig the space that was covered. Once you’re down move the tarp to the next area to dig and leave for a couple of weeks (if it’s been really wet) and then repeat the process. Next weekend, weather permitting I’ll put some manure down on the area I’ve just dug and then dig the new area the following week. Following that cycle for another month or so and the remainder of the plot will have been dug over and be ready for the new growing season.


I’m planning to do some annual review posts if the time allows; books, films, tv programmes, podcasts etc. I think I’ll either post them separately or possibly do one topic a week for the next couple of weeks (assuming that it doesn’t make this posts any longer than they already are).


There’s a General Election in the week ahead and I’m pretty much working flat out to get things done and play a little bit of catch up on this week just gone. If you’re in the UK then please get out and vote on Thursday, even if you think your vote won’t make a difference, don’t be the person where it does and you didn’t.

Late For a Very Important Date! TWTW # 43

I’m late this week, despite my best efforts to get these posts out at a consistent time each week, I’ve kind of blown it and it’s not work related but just me losing complete track of time whilst I was doing something else. What was I doing, well I was editing some audio (see below) and getting it uploaded and posted. It’s a binaural recording from our dog walk this morning.

I’ve been wanting to explore this medium for a while. Binaural basically means with both ears, so this is just 360° sound. If you listen to the player below with headphones, you will essentially be listening to what I was. I’d love to know what you think, so if you can stomach 10 mins of me talking (not the whole time), please join us on our dog walk and let me know what you think in the comments below.


Last week was a busy one, lots of different work related things going on and travelling. The week ahead looks like being a little quieter on the travel front, but plenty to keep me occupied otherwise. I’ve had some enquiries for work in the New Year too, which looks promising but isn’t confirmed yet and at the moment it looks like I’m busy right through to that point.


I finished reading Last Bus To Woodstock and listening to The Dog Went Over The Mountain: Travels with Albie, An American Journey. I’ve also read Michael Connelly’s Dark Sacred Night and have been listening to Edward Snowden’s autobiography, Permanent Record in the car on my travels. The latter is interesting, I was inspired to “read” it after listening to his appearance on the Joe Rogen podcast which I posted a link to a couple of weeks ago. This is a proper autobiography and doesn’t just focus on the events that made him infamous. It also perhaps goes someway to explaining why he did what he did and how there has been the reaction to it that there has been (from both sides). It’s worth a listen, and I say that having not yet finished it.


The Final Frontier by Michael Chabon


Cornish homes take part in trial to supply clean power to grid


Never knowingly undersoiled – John Lewis trucks to run on cow manure

 


We’ve been enjoying His Dark Materials on TV, I’ve never read the books but this is shaping up to be a good series, even if I’m still on 100% sure what’s going on, but then I guess that might just be the point. The latest adaptation of War of the Worlds also started last night, I haven’t had a chance to watch all of the first episode yet but it looks promising.


Okay I need to stop typing this now and hit post otherwise it will never happen. Hope you have a great week, and hopefully normal service will be resumed next Monday (or maybe not).

Rinse and Repeat TWTW #38

img_20191003_072036752_hdr-effectsAutumn seems to have arrived, damp and much cooler.

I must admit to feeling a little frazzled, it’s been a busy couple of weeks, and although I missed writing here on my usual weekly post, I’m glad I gave myself the break.

My routine has been: Wake Up>Make & Eat Breakfast>Walk Dogs>Work>Make & Eat Lunch>Walk Dogs>Work>Make & Eat Dinner>Travel To Evening Talk>Give Evening Talk>Drive Home>Sleep>Repeat as required.

This has included quite a bit of travelling for other work commitments as well as to give evening talks, and I’ve got through a fair bit of audio books and podcasts when I’ve been on a train or in the car, more on that below.

It also feels good that my days have returned to a bit more normality (at least for the time being), I have no more evening talks until the middle of November and then after that nothing until January, so I can focus on the day-job!


I’m really looking forward to the new Star Trek series, and this new trailer dropped as part of the New York Comic-Con.


And while thinking about this, the series writer is Michael Chabon, and this is an interesting discussion about some of his other works and how they have influenced the Star Trek  cannon.


I’ve only had a little time for the allotment in the past couple of weeks. The weather hasn’t always been favourable, but I have managed to do some of the end of season digging and put some manure out on the plot to feed the soil for next season. With autumn arriving it’s going to be more of the same over the coming weeks.


screenshot_20191010-145052I’ve finished a couple of audiobooks while I’ve been travelling. Darwin Comes To Town by Menno Schilthuizen and A Jaguar Ripped My Flesh by Tim Cahill.

I  also finished The Robots of Dawn by Isaac Asimov.

All were great and I enjoyed them all. I’d forgotten that the Asimov was as much a crime fiction as a science fiction, and it’s made me want to track down the previous two books (The Caves of Steel & The Naked Sun) in that series because I don’t remember those either. At the moment though my to be read pile as rather large and I think I need to work on reducing it a bit before I buy more books, plus I’ve got some pre-orders arriving over the next few weeks. I will keep an eye out for them in the secondhand stores thought and if I don’t find them before I’m ready, I’ll be using the library.


In between audiobooks, I’ve also had my earbuds in listening to a lot of podcasts. I think I’ll save the list of the things I’ve been listening to for another time, as this post is probably going to be quite long as it is, but I particularly enjoyed listening to a recent edition of the Tim Ferriss podcast on one of my journeys. It features Neil deGrasse Tyson, and prompted me to track down a couple of his books.

img_20191011_103919_190

One of those books I ordered secondhand and it came in the post on Friday – Death By Black Hole – when I opened it up there were lots of bookmarks still in the book. It had obviously been someone’s (there was a ticket stub with the person’s name and address on) airport / in-flight read at some point in 2008. This person had, in October that year flown from Luxor to Cairo and then later the same day on from Cairo to Sharm El Sheik. He’d had a pizza and a margarita on his stop over in Cairo. Three weeks later he flew from Heathrow to Denver at which time I think he must have finished the book because that is where the forensic trail runs cold.

I’ve had a couple of secondhand books like this recently that people have left “bookmarks” in and it’s always interesting to see what you can decipher from them.


The Problem With Net-Zero Emissions Targets [LINK]. I’m involved in a couple of projects looking at this at the moment, so this was an interesting read for me.

And at the other end of the spectrum, the 20 firms behind a third of global carbon emissions [LINK].


North Atlantic Right Whales Are Dying in Horrific Ways[LINK].


If you can access BBC Sounds or iPlayer – I’m not sure whether this works outside of the UK or you can use a VPN to access – then BBC 6 Music are doing a series of the favourite music of graphic content writers. They’ve already had Alan Moore, and Neil Gaiman on. Hannah Berry and Warren Ellis are up in the next couple of weeks.


Jonathan Franzen: online rage is stopping us tackling the climate crisis [LINK].


img_20191002_142921461The last few years I’ve wanted to give a Hobonichi diary a go. I journal most days and I hope that this will be something a little different.

I know it’s only October but these sell pretty quickly, and in previous years I’ve left it too late to get one, so I’ve ordered early.

Bit of time before I get my hands on it properly, but I’ve already got quite a few dates for things in 2020.




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.

What’s In Your Pockets? TWTW # 37

What’s in my pockets? Well it would appear that in terms of my coat, a mix of stuff for walking my dogs or things that I’ve found on our walks. I was clearing out my pockets to get the coat ready to be re-waxed and to transfer the pocket contents to another coat. The coat has big pockets and all of those balls that you can see in the picture are ones we’ve found and not ones that belong to my dogs. I keep them and pass them on to a friend when I see her as her dogs are not fussy about the ones that they play with, unlike mine!

It’s been another busy week, pushing client work along and a mix of being here at my desk in front of the computer or on the phone. The next two weeks however are shaping up to be the weeks from hell, with several evening presentations and quite a bit of travelling. Unfortunately most, if not all of it, is going to be in the car, so other than listening to more audio books I won’t have much time for anything else.

Fair warning therefore that if there isn’t a post here from me next Monday (7th October) that’s why. Hopefully normal service will resume the following week.


I’ve been reading another Maigret novel this week – Maigret and the Wine Merchant.  It’s interesting that this one was originally published in 1970, and although that is many decades ago, it’s nearly forty years after the first Maigret novel – Pietr the Latvian was published in 1931. There are quite a few differences between the two, and the first mention of computers that I can recall in a Maigret novel, as well as many other cultural changes. Quite the contrast between them, and even more so when we’re not far off 100 years since the first one was written.

When I was sorting through some things at my Mum’s house came across a couple of Isaac Asimov books. I’m planning on reading these, as soon as time allows even if it’s only a page or two at bedtime for the foreseeable future! They’re a blast from my childhood but I can honestly say I don’t remember much about them, so hopefully they’ll be a bit of a treat to read again after all that time.



My time on the allotment has been a little curtailed this past few weeks, partly due to available time, but also down to the weather. The apples that I was hoping would stay on my tree have all blown off, so good news we get apple crumble, bad news, we’ll probably be eating a lot of it because that’s a lot of bruised apples that won’t keep for too long.


Dwelling As Resistance


Michael Chabon asks “What’s the Point?”


More than half of native European trees face extinction



I think that’s all I have for this week, all being well I’ll be back on the 14th October (although there is a little post coming later this week, but I wrote that one before I wrote this one – the wonders of technology!) Be careful out !