Book Review: Goshawk Summer by James Aldred

Goshawk Summer by James Aldred

My Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

This is the story of the authors Spring and Summer 2020, and how he spent that time filming a nest of Goshawks up high in the canopy of the New Forest.

We learn of the character of this magnificent raptor and master predator and also foxes, Dartford Warbler, deer, curlew, woodlark, lapwing and many other species.

This is a fascinating insight into the Goshawk and the work of a wildlife cameraman, with incredible species knowledge and detail but also the more mundane aspects of being at the top of a tree in a hide waiting for something to happen. How everything is done to put the subject matter first and not disturb them, but at the same time being there to capture the perfect sequence.

Recorded over the period of the first lockdown in England for coronavirus and how he was able to keep working, the book also charts those changes. As the New Forest goes from relative quiet and stillness and the natural inhabitants seemingly expand to fill the void of humans; to a much busier and more frantic space as the restrictions are slowly lifted.

James Aldred takes you perfectly to the heart of his work space, I spent several hours lost with him watching the different species and captivated by their activity and behaviour. His book manages to tell the tale of what his camera sees without the moving images to back up the words. He perfectly captures the moment and takes the reader there.


From The Publisher

ln early 2020, wildlife cameraman James Aldred was commissioned to film the lives of a family of goshawks in the New Forest, his childhood home. He began to plan a treetop hide in a remote site that would allow him to film the gos nest, the newly hatched chicks and the lives of these elusive and enchanting birds.

Then lockdown. And as the world retreated, something remarkable happened. The noise of our everyday stilled. No more cars, no more off-roaders, no more airplanes roaring in the skies, no one in the goshawk woods – except James.

At this unique moment, James was granted a once in a lifetime opportunity to keep filming. And so, over that spring and into summer, he began to write about his experiences in a place empty of people, but filled with birdsong and new life. Amidst the fragility and the fear, there was silver moonlight, tumbling fox cubs, calling curlew and, of course, the soaring goshawks.

About The Author

JAMES ALDRED is the celebrated author of The Man Who Climbs Trees (Allen Lane) and an Emmy Award winning
documentary wildlife cameraman and film-maker. He works with the likes of the BBC and National Geographic and has collaborated with Sir David Attenborough on numerous projects including ‘Life of Mammals’,’Planet Earth’ and
‘Our Planet’.

He grew up in the New Forest and now lives in North Somerset. A product of the BBC natural history unit in Bristol, he has been a wildlife cameraman since 1997 and has been nominated for BAFTA/RTS awards many times. He specializes in forest filming, especially at height within forest canopy, where he uses ropes and canopy platforms to film orangutans, chimps and birds of prey. He spent the national lockdown of Spring and Summer 2020 filming in the New Forest.

Goshawk Summer: A New Forest Season Unlike Any Other by James Aldred is published by Elliott & Thompson and available from 29th July 2021


[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.]

Hot Tomatoes TWTW # 136

It’s been a hot one this week, temperatures in our garden topped 30°C on several occasions, shade and fluids have been priorities all week. It’s curtailed a lot of the plans that I had and instead the focus has been on keeping the house and the dogs as cool as possible as well as ourselves. Friday and the weekend became a bit cooler and a welcome respite. We can only expect more of the same. We topped 42°C (110F) in the potting shed which the tomato and cucumber plants loved but they were the only ones!

Meanwhile another billionaire has shot himself into “space” (I’m sorry but it’s not really space is it, there was no passage through the atmosphere into orbit. Being shot into the sky in something akin to a giant dildo, which is barely in flight for ten minutes is not space travel it’s more like a glorified carnival ride). But have no fear, he’s not an astronaut.

I really don’t get it. I support meaningful exploration of space from a proper scientific approach but I just can’t support the massive waste of resources that this kind of “space” tourism brings. I can see benefits to the Space X programme supplying the international space stateion, although I question why it has to be private companies doing that, but what Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic are doing just seems like someone playing with very expensive toys.

We’ve seen just what can be achieved with tackling covid and “space” travel, perhaps it could be used on something else like tackling climate change or getting vaccines out to the remaining 99% of the population of poorer countries who have yet to have a supply of it?

We had a bomb scare in our little town this week. A “suspicious” package was reported outside Poundland and the town centre closed and evacuated. Now it’s not clear what was in the the said package, but the bomb disposal team deemed it not to be explosive. It does sound like it had been there for some time before it was reported.


I’ve had some new subscribers this week, if you are one of them – Welcome!

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


Work

I was all set for a meeting this week, but as the date drew close I realised the details hadn’t been confirmed and queried whether the meeting was going ahead. Turns out it had been cancelled but no one had bothered to tell everyone invited. It is being reorganised but all the proposed dates are difficult, although not impossible, for me. Yet nothing has been confirmed so it looks as if that might not go ahead either.


Reading

I’ve not read much this week, my brain has just been too fried in the heat to make much sense of a book. I did pick up Philip Kerr’s A Man Without Breath again, which I’ve only read about half of. At this rate I might actually finish it this time. For fiction it is great how historically accurate it is and how many of the characters, particularly the minor ones were real individuals, now brought to life again.


Allotment

Far too hot to get much done this week, but with the cooler temperatures on Saturday I did manage to get some weeding done and a few other smaller tasks. The heat is causing things like lettuce to start bolting, and also the onions to finish their growing cycle. This year has been one endless battle with the weeds and it does seem like they’ve got the upper hand at times. It’s at this point each year when I’m thinking whether I am going to renew my licence in October or give up my plot.


Watching & Listening

We’re progressing with our Star Trek rewatch and watched films V and VI this week but other than that we’ve not had the television on much. I’ve been trying to catch up on a few podcasts but it’s one of those situations were as soon as I’ve listened to an older episode a newer one pops into the feed. So far I’ve been keeping the unread count about level.


Links

Cockatoos in Sydney are learning and teaching each other to bin dive for food

Grizzly Bear Terrorises Man for Days in Alaska – Rescued By The Coastguard

Neil Gaiman Also Working On Bringing Anansi Boys To The Screen


We had another vet appointment on Friday, we’ve reached the point where we’re not sure that any of the interventions that have been made are making much of a difference, so the vet is going back to the specialist for further advice. Until we’ve heard back we’re just carrying on as we are.


Well that’s about it for this week. In the coming week I may or may not have a work meeting, plus I am going to visit my Mum so will be sticking a swab down my throat and up my nose. I think I’m getting used to this, but each time is as unpleasant as the last but the thought of covid is worse.

Whatever you are up to this week, take care and stay safe.


Raindrops on the Shed Roof TWTW # 133

A follow-up trip to the vets this week, these will continue for a few weeks to monitor the effects (if any) of his new pills. So far it’s hard to say whether there has been any difference. I also need to book Ruby in have her annual inoculations and go back and collect some tablets that I forgot to collect last week.


Reading. Not much to report, I’ve been reading John Le Carre’s – Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy; meaning to reread the Karla trilogy as I’ve only ever read them separately at very different times and never together. I’ve also been reading a biography of James Ravilious who was a photographer and son of the war artist Eric Ravilious.


Allotment. In between the showers this week I’ve been trying to get on top of the weeds. It seems that most plot holders are having the same problem, and there is rumour that perhaps it was one of the deliveries of manure that perhaps had a lot of weed seed in it. It’s certainly possible but also the fact that the cycles of rain and warm sunshine are also a contributing factor. I spent a little time hiding from the rain in my shed with a flask of coffee and a notebook to write in. Quite relaxing in it’s own way.

We’ve started to get a lot of soft fruit, mostly gooseberries, but also a few loganberries. So we’ll be making the most of them while they are abundant. I also lifted the over-wintering onions as they are ready to be dried and used. The spring plantings aren’t far behind, but it will be a few more weeks before they are ready. Theoretically our potatoes are also ready to harvest as from Monday, but when I tried a few a couple of weeks ago it seemed that they needed a couple more weeks, so I’ll wait a little longer before I lift them.


Work. Some meetings arranged for the not too distant future, and I’ve paid my tax bill.


TV / Film / Radio / Podcasts. I finished watching Bosch, which was excellent. We’ve also watched a few episodes of The Sandhamn Murders which has the beautiful scenery of the Swedish archipelago islands for it’s back drop but a pretty weak story. We might watch some more or we might not bother. There’s a Star Trek movie marathon on this weekend and we’ve been watching them in slow time through the benefit of dvr. Star Trek: The Motion Picture stands up really well considering it’s age but I know there are a few howlers coming.

I’ve been listening to Pilgrim this week. Series 7 is available at the moment, as is the Halloween special, but the first episode of series 7 is only available for another day or so if you want to listen yourself. If you like fantasy drama it’s worth a listen.


Links.

Cheesy Cauliflower Steaks – I made these this week, they were gorgeous, so much so that I forgot to take a photo. I also made the pesto much more like a mousse than the recipe suggests, which also works well and is a lot less oily.

Make a bottle raft – I guess if you’re ever stranded on a desert island, plastic pollution might makes this an alternative to a raft made from palm trees!


That’s it for this week, have a good week ahead, stay safe and take care.

Of Dogs, Vets and Hollyhocks TWTW # 132

I’m not sure where this week has gone, but it feels like it’s been quite constructive. I do seem to have broken something on the blog though as ads appear to have returned. I’ll try working out how to turn them off.

I took Wilson back to the vet’s on Tuesday, a pre-booked appointment to have some stitches removed but also to see if they had received the outstanding test results. We achieved both, the tests were delayed by a covid outbreak at the lab where they do the analysis but they had now had the outstanding ones. It turns out he has an autoimmune disorder – Pemphigus Foliaceus – on top of everything else that he has. This latter point dictates a certain treatment regime and he’s started on a course of medication. We’re back at the vet’s this coming week for a blood test to see how the treatment is working. I’ve now been able to file an insurance claim and I hope that will be accepted.


I didn’t manage to make it to the 1984 Symposium this week. George Orwell’s – Eric Arthur Blair – was born on 25th June 1903.


Reading. I read an article on The Last Word on Nothing this week that sent me down another rabbit hole. It bought back memories of sitting and watching coastal birds through a telescope in the early 1990’s, in Devon I was counting Avocets. I sat and sketched an avocet and made plans to dust off my telescope and go out and look at coastal birds through it again. The article also mentions a book by Peter Matthiessen – The Wind Birds – which doesn’t look like it was ever released here in the UK, probably because it’s about US coastal birds. I did track down a paperback copy though and I would like to read it, given how much I have enjoyed many of Matthiessen’s other books including the Birds of Heaven, The Cloud Forest and The Snow Leopard.


Watching. The final season of Bosch was released this week, it’s only an eight episode season and I’m nearly finished watching it. If you haven’t watched it yet I recommend it, it’s consistently good from season one through to eight and I’m pleased that it gets to go out on a high. A spin-off series is planned, so there might yet be more.


Great to see the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness video podcast back again


Allotment. I’ve been pretty busy in the garden and allotment this week, I’ve had a lot of Hollyhock plants to transplant into bigger pots, and I still have a tray of seedlings which I’m planning on transplanting out around the garden. These won’t flower until next year, assuming that they survive, but I’m investing in future colour in the garden. I don’t know quite what colour they will be as they are saved seed from a number of different plants and I suspect that there has been some cross pollination. They could be anywhere from jet black to a light pink colour.

My neighbour gave me some sweetcorn plants that she had spare and I’ve planted them out onto the allotment, I didn’t grow any myself this year because of the risk that the badgers will come and knobble them before I get to eat the cobs. So at some point I’ll have to construct some sort of frame around them to keep the badgers at bay!

I’ve also sown Tuscan kale, pak-choi and mixed mizzuna seeds this week.


Links.

The Greatest Walks in Literature.

Half the Trees in Two New English Woodlands Planted By Jays.

Stories to Save The World: A New Wave of Climate Fiction.


That’s it for the week ahead. I have a few diary commitments this week but many are weather dependent. Whatever you are up to take care and stay safe.

Extremes of Time and Weather TWTW # 131

It feels like it’s been a long week, but I also feel like I’ve been particularly time poor this week, with the days themselves passing very quickly. The weather has flipped during the week, from hot and scorching at the start to wet and cooler by the time I am writing this on Sunday.

There isn’t an update that I can provide on Wilson, other than to say lots of things have been ruled out, but there is still one set of results outstanding. He’s back with the vet on Tuesday to have some stitches from a biopsy site removed. Hopefully by then that outstanding test will be back. It’s difficult to see him so unwell it makes my heart hurt, but he’s pretty stoic and seems to be very much himself beyond the visible symptoms.


I’ve had a few new sign-ups this week, some off of the back of a book review (see below) that I published, and also a few (I think) from being involved in AudioMo.

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


Work. I had a virtual meeting with a client on an ongoing project that has been significantly disrupted by covid. It doesn’t feel like there is much work there for me in the near future.


Reading. Not that much. I’ve been dipping back into Ernie Pyle’s stories of the second world war in Italy in 1943, and also the war artist Edward Ardizzone’s second world war diaries. By coincidence these are also from the same time, but the similarities and differences between the two men’s experiences are quite marked.

I also published a review for Rob Cowen’s book The Heeding which I’ve been holding at the request of the publisher until the week of publication. It’s such a great book, and I’d recommend it, particularly if you like narrative poetry.


I always carry a notebook. They normally last a few months until they’re full, and then I swap them out for a new one. I write ideas for stories, shopping lists, nature observations, draw sketches and all sorts of other things in them.

It’s taken a bit longer to fill each one during covid times (although I have been writing more in my main journal) but this week it was time to swap the old for the new. In this instance from a Field Notes to a Moleskine. Moleskine went through a patch where their paper quality wasn’t all that great but they seem to have gone back to better paper stock again so I’m trying a newer book from their limited edition Lord of the Rings series.


Allotment. The rain has been great, but it has really promoted week growth, so I’ve been doing quite a bit of weeding. I also harvested the last of the broad beans this weekend, and have now dug over that part of the plot. I’m planning on sowing some more salad crops in the space which I’ll do next weekend if not before.


Links.

Covid: How have allotments helped people during the pandemic?

After walking to work, Beau Miles has now tried paddling to work:


That’s it for this week. Depending on how things work out in the week ahead, I might be travelling to Oxfordshire to celebrate George Orwell’s birthday, and I have that appointment with the vet but otherwise no specific plans.

Whatever your plans, take care and stay safe.

Book Review: The Heeding by Rob Cowen, Illustrated by Nick Hayes

The Heeding by Rob Cowen, Illustrated by Nick Hayes.

My Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

There will be a few books in life that you will always treasure, it might the content of the book itself or where you were or who you were with when you read them. Common Ground by Rob Cowen is one of those books for me. I can tell you when and where I was when I was reading it (in the last couple of weeks in my last paid job before going freelance), and to a limited extent I can tell you about the effect it had on me – I actually find it difficult to truly find the right words if I’m being honest.

It is the book that I have gifted / given more than any other book.

But. Rob hasn’t written another book until now and I really have waited for this book. This could go either way really couldn’t it?

Now let’s be honest, when I knew this book was coming I asked if I could go on the review list, before I was asked if I’d like to review it. I never do this. I pre-ordered a copy (it’s out tomorrow – June 17th). I wanted to read this book. I wanted it to be as good as Common Ground.

But. What if it wasn’t?

But. It’s better.

My god. IT. IS.


In many ways it couldn’t be more different, it is a book of poems not prose, but they tell a story just the same. Written during lockdown in 2020 and illustrated by Nick Hayes (I reviewed Nick’s the Book of Trespass here) – the two aspects merge together into an amazing book.

The Heeding is a message to us all. We need to heed what is going on around us. To call out what is maybe not quite right and to celebrate the good and the beautiful in our world. To take the time to actually look and listen to the world around us. To pay attention to those things that maybe we take for granted, and make sure that we don’t loose them through our own inattention.

It had me captivated from the first page. I devoured it, and did so again, finally slowing to read each poem more deliberately and going back over them. To be honest I’m still reading it. Although it’s sitting next to my keyboard right now, it’s always close at hand, my proof copy is falling apart through use. This is a special book, it’s another one that I’ll treasure and will be gifting to others.

If you should read this book, and you should go and order a copy right now. I think you’ll find your own meaning in the poems and the illustrations, if I had to pick a couple of poems that are personal favourites it would be; This Allotment; The Lovers; and The Heeding. These and the others have made me smile, laugh, cry, rant & rave and be grateful for the world. If we were all to heed the world around us in this way what an amazing place it would be.

The illustrations elevate the words too, they bring the poems to life with their striking, contrasting style as well as having a life of their own.

I am truly grateful for this book, it is beautiful. You may be able to tell that I am struggling to really find the words to truly express how I feel about it and just how good it is.

Please go and get yourself a copy, in fact buy a couple and give one to a friend.


From The Publisher: The world changed in 2020. Gradually at first, then quickly and irreversibly, the patterns by which we once lived altered completely. The Heeding paints a picture of a tear caught in the grip of history, yet filled with revelatory perspectives close at hand: from a sparrowhawk hunting in a back street, the moon over a town or butterflies massing in a high-summer yard, to remembrances of moments that shape a life. Collecting birds, animals, trees and people together and surfacing memories along the way, The Heeding becomes a profound meditation on a time no-one will forget.

The Heeding is a book of our time: conceived in lockdown by two creative people who have yet to meet in person. Across four seasons, Rob Cowen and Nick Hayes lead us on a journey that takes its markers and signs from nature all around us, coming to terms with a world that is filled with terror and pain, but beauty and wonder too.

Rob Cowen is an award winning writer, hailed as one of the UK’s most original voices on nature and place. His book Common Ground (2015) was shortlisted for the Portico, Richard Jefferies Society and Wainwright Prizes and voted on of the nation’s favourite nature books on BBC Winterwatch. He lives in North Yorkshire.

Nick Hayes is a writer, illustrator and print-maker. He is the author of the Sunday Times bestseller, The Book of Trespass: Crossing the Lines That Divide Us (2020). He has published graphic novels with Jonathan Cape and worked with many renowned titles. He has exhibited across the country, including the Hayward Gallery. He lives on the Kennet and Avon canal.

The Heeding is published by Elliott & Thompson on 17th June 2021.


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

Jabbering TWTW # 129

Welcome, this is going to be a short one this week, mostly because I’ve not been doing all that much.

As trailered last week, I’ve had my second covid vaccine. The theory that in a couple of weeks I’ll be fully protected doesn’t really make me feel much like changing much in my approach at the moment however. In theory everything should be back to “normal” after June 21st. Quite what that means isn’t clear, but there is a good debate at the moment in terms of whether we should hold back a bit longer or carry on but keep some elements like masks in public and some physical distancing. I think the latter makes a certain amount of sense if we do fully open up, but the public, politicians and scientists seem fairly evenly split over what the right direction is.


Allotment. The combination of sunshine and showers over the last few weeks has really made everything grow, especially the weeds. I’ve been harvesting broad beans which are young and sweet and don’t need cooking, so have been making salads with them. Also our radish crop continues, so plenty of them too. I’ve been planting out the last of the current batch of plants grown in the potting shed from seed, including courgette, squash, cucumber and fennel. The latter is a new one, so I’m not altogether sure whether they will continue to grow at all and if they do how they will turn out. I’ve also been doing the inevitable weeding and mowing of paths.


Books. I finished Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death by James Runcie and then after a couple of days of not reading much picked up the second book in the series Sidney Chambers and the Peril of Night. I already had both of these on my kindle but if I want to read the whole series I’ll have to track down the remaining books.


TV & Film. I’ve watched a few things this week, including Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse which Ann loved (she even said she’d watch it again, which is unheard of for a Marvel film) but I found it a little underwhelming. I also watched The Outpost which is based on a true story, and I found a bit disturbing.

I am looking forward to watching the biopic about Anthony Bourdain when it’s available. I’ve really enjoyed his books and tv series, a troubled soul who we lost too soon. Here’s the trailer.


AudioMo. June is AudioMo month and I’m participating again by posting a short piece of audio each day. As with last year there isn’t any particular theme to my posts. If you’d like to listen to them, they are all posted on my Twitter account, to listen to other people’s posts you can follow the hashtag #audiomo on twitter. There seem to be a lot of people taking part this year which is great.


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

A Blanket Made of Home Spun Wool TWTW # 127

Once again the allotment is wet and miserable, but the weather is due to improve later so I’ll be heading down there then. I did pop in to check everything was alright this morning after a day of strong winds yesterday. No damage to report. While I was there I picked these radish, the warm and wet conditions of the last couple of weeks means that they’ve grown well, and these have a very fiery taste, eye-wateringly so!

I’ve spent a little time on the plot during the week this week, it was perhaps a perfect way to spend an afternoon, I was earthing up the potatoes and sowing some extra broad bean seeds. The weather was sunny and the temperature not too hot.

I’ve also been clearing out the potting shed of the over-wintering plants and converting the space to enable us to grow some tomatoes and cucumbers.


I had to take Wilson back to the vet on Monday, and upset stomach has kept us busy but it wasn’t resolving on it’s own. Things seem much improved now though.

It was also Ruby’s 7th birthday. I pulled together a short montage of some of my photo’s of her over the last seven years.


Reading. I’ve been rereading The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes for the umpteenth time this week, I enjoy these stories so much but it’s been a while since I’ve read the whole collection. I’m planning to go on to Memoirs and Return in due course but picked up a Brother Cadfael – The Confession of Brother Haluin to read in the meantime. I always learn something new reading these, often having to resort to looking something up in a dictionary or encyclopedia. For example did you know that a “Brychans” is a blanket made of home spun wool?

I’ve also been reading some of George Orwell’s Diaries, these are interesting particularly as you can see how his experiences recorded in them later translated to some of his books. For example his journey to go hop-picking where he spends some time sleeping “rough” is very similar to what ends up being in Down and Out in Paris & London. I hope as I read more of them there will be some similar parallels.


Links. There’s been a lot of coverage of the Queen’s speech and the government’s announcements about tree planting and peatlands. There’s a good summary here. Personally I think the proposals are a bit weak and don’t go far enough, particularly with regards to stopping the use of peat-based compost, with the government holding yet another consultation on this rather than actually taking action based on the decades of evidence that it already has.

There’s also a good ranking of companies by the Financial Times of those reducing their carbon emissions here.

Twenty firms produce 55% of the worlds plastic waste [LINK].

David Quammen on travelling into the past to cover the pandemic [LINK]. I’ve said it before but you need to read David Quammen’s book Spillover to help understand how we got to where we did with Covid-19.


I’ve been sorting through a lot of boxes from my parents loft this week. In one I found a lot of old books from my childhood. There were a lot of Dandy annuals and also my old i-Spy collectors books. It looks like I had a life membership from around 1977 but there no longer appears to be an i-Spy club going in the same format anymore. Great shame as it these and other similar books that really got me into nature and the outdoors and recording all the things that I saw. Something that I am still doing to this day.


Work. A very quiet week workwise, it’s a real struggle at the moment. I’ve got a booking for an evening allotment talk next week and have been making the final arrangements for that and preparing my slides. It’s a Zoom talk and the last one I have in my diary for several months. In fact the next one is supposed to be an in person talk – booked before the pandemic – but whether that will go ahead in that format remains to be seen.


The week ahead is looking fairly busy but with small things of little importance but that are necessary and will take up time. I seem to have weeks like that now and again when I try and get through a lot of tasks that I’ve been putting off or unable to do. It gets them done but makes for a pretty boring week overall. I’ll have to see if I can find a way to put a little bit more life into it!

Whatever you’re going to be getting up to, Stay Safe and Take Care.

New Avian Arrivals TWTW # 126

I have a sense of Deja vu today, once again it’s Saturday, it’s raining hard enough to mean the allotment isn’t on the cards for the time being and I’m writing a blog post.

THis week the garden has been full of baby fledgling birds. Mostly Starlings and Great Tits. The starlings arrive in big rowdy gangs, a few adults and lots of youngsters. It’s a bit like watching an out of control school trip of teenagers come marauding through town. They arrive at the bird feeders and proceed to strip them bare. It only lasts for a few days and is fun to watch, but the youngsters aren’t all that adept at flying and will crash land all over the garden.

The Great Tits are the opposite. Unless you know they’re there, you’d miss them. Like their bigger brash cousins their flight skills are wanting but they are more prone to “hiding” in the top of a flower pot or under the hedge and waiting for their parents to bring them food.

Throughout this we keep a relatively low profile, the birds have the garden apart from when we spot a cat or a magpie and then we just go for a walk across the garden to deter the interloper.

Already the young Starlings are improving in their abilities and will now visit the feeders without crashing into them on approach and sending them spinning around like a fairground carousel. My guess is the Great Tits are still a few days behind, but hopefully will soon be exploring the wider world.

I also saw my first Swift of the year this week, only one and not where I normally see them so probably an early arrival or perhaps one just passing through on the way elsewhere.

In other news I took Wilson for his latest vet check-up midweek, so far so good in terms of the outcomes but we’re still waiting for the results of a blood test before we decide on next steps.


Allotment. As mentioned above, no allotment this morning but hopefully later on or tomorrow. Since last week however, I finally managed to get down to the plot with the mower and give the paths a haircut, and do some digging after the rains of last weekend. It was perfect timing, particularly for digging with the rain softening up the ground just enough to make it easy going. I’ve just got a couple more bits to do and now things seem warmer, more plants to get out. I’ve been planning where the last few things will go, so in the next few weeks things should start to properly resemble a veg plot.


Reading. Another week of reading little bits and pieces of lots of things. I’ve been reading a little about the life of Ernest Hemingway and separately about the life of adventurer Beau Miles. You may recall that I’ve posted some of his videos here before, most recently about his 90km commute to work on foot or like this one below about sleeping overnight in a 100 year old Gum tree. Both are fascinating, both a little crazy and both worth my time.


Work. It’s been a quiet week workwise, and has enabled me to spend more time walking in the woods and breathing in the world around me a bit more, and thinking about work in general.

I did hear that the bid I worked on over the bank holiday has been put on hold. The potential client is having a rethink about what they want. Sadly this happens all the time and is very frustrating because you’d assume that the client has decided on what they want by the time they go to the market. These things are always undertaking some unpaid work on the assumption that it might lead to a period of paid work, even if you might lose out to a competitor, but when the client pulls them and no one gets the paid work, that is even more frustrating. With work very suppressed at the moment because of the pandemic and it already being a competitive marketplace it’s increasingly apparent that having more than one source of income is important. Working on that.


More than 2 million voters may lack photo id required [LINK]

New planning laws an utter disaster say countryside campaigners [LINK]

Tory Death Cult [LINK]

Which App Will I Need For My Covid Passport [LINK]


I had to update my “new” cars software this week. This involved a lot of toing and froing between the car and the computer with a USB key and following a sequence of button presses that was a little like trying to pat your head and rub your belly at the same time. I think we got there in the end but when did cars become this complicated?


Well that’s it for this week. My diary for the week ahead is looking quite empty, so the world could be my oyster (subject to following whatever covid guidelines are in force). Whatever you have planned, take care care and stay safe.

Raindrops and Earworms TWTW # 125

Hello. I’m just back from the allotment. It’s too wet today to do very much – it’s always a fine line on my plot to be able to work the ground, particularly if the ground gets wet, as they the clay in the soil makes it a quagmire pretty quickly. In the summer if hot and sunny – it will become a concrete-like dustbowl.

We took a quick detour on our morning walk to remove some of the coverings that have been on the seedlings so that they can get the benefit of the rain (and to save me having to hand water). The temperatures are up high enough that I don’t have to worry about frost for the next few days (and hopefully we’re done with it completely now). There is nothing like good rain water to make plants grow.

As you can see I think Ruby wasn’t quite so impressed at the stop. We’re now tucked-up warm at home and I’m writing this while she is gently snoring under a blanket.

Mostly this week when I’ve not been at my desk working, I’ve been out with at least one of the dogs. We don’t often all walk together now, the older one prefers to stay at home for us to come back. I know he sits and waits in the hall for us to return, and I feel sad about that but medically it’s better for him that he’s there and he seems happy to play the role of guardian of the front step until we get back.

This week was supposed to have been a four day week, but I opted to work on Bank Holiday Monday, to make sure that I made enough progress with a project that I could hand it off to those I was collaborating with before I had other things that I needed to do. I made a mental promise to myself that I would have my Bank Holiday another day. So I’m writing it down here too, so that there’s some accountability to it.


Amongst other podcasts I’ve been listening to the latest edition of @documentally’s newsletter pod this week. It’s a part of his newsletter that is available to paying subscribers, of which I am one. He has been interviewing his paid subscribers, who come from all walks of life but all seem to have interesting stories to tell. I’ve volunteered to be interviewed so at some point he will get to me, which the more I hear of the other editions the more I wonder what on earth we’ll talk about.

You can subscribe to his newsletter for free and you’ll get something good in your email inbox about once a fortnight but paid subscribers (it’s less than the cost of a good takeaway coffee a month) get a weekly missive and the bonus audio and other occasional extras.

I’ve also taken advantage of an offer for 3 months free of Apple Music. As a rule I don’t listen to a lot of music and I’m not sure the full price (£9.99/month) will tempt me at the end of the freebie period, but I thought I’d give it a try. So far it hasn’t swayed me either way particularly. When left to use its AI it seems to predictably serve up things that are already in my iTunes library and not offer me much that’s new or I’ve not heard before. I’m trying to help it a bit by liking or not the tracks it serves up but it doesn’t seem to be having much impact yet.


Watching. After deciding not to watch the last season of Line of Duty in our household, one of us weakened and we ended up watching the whole series over 4 evenings this week – for the record I was present during this time and kinda watching over the top of my book. If you haven’t watched it yet and are going to then I won’t spoil it for you.


Work. As mentioned above I’ve been working on a proposal over several days this week, we now wait and see what happens next. I’m relatively relaxed about it either way as it’s a completely remote piece of work and part-time, so would still mean that I’d have space for other clients or non-work stuff.


Reading. I finished reading The Screaming Sky by Charles Foster this week. When I went to add it to my GoodReads profile where I log all my reads I noticed that it’s the first book that I’ve completed for a couple of weeks. Not because I’ve not been reading, although I think it’s fair to say I’ve not been reading as much but because I’ve been dipping in and out of all sorts of things, ranging from the history of the D-Day Normandy landings in 1944 to Ernie Pyle’s accounts of the war in Sicily in 1943 to essays by George Orwell and tales of Ernest Hemingway. A mixed bag indeed.


Signal take out honest ads showing how Facebook profiles it’s users and gets it’s ads banned. [LINK] [LINK]

Hydrogen fuel may not be the best way to replace fossil fuels. [LINK]

Farmer accidentally makes Belgium a bigger country [LINK]

UK Government plans to make 50% funding cut to arts subjects [LINK]


Well that’s all I have for this week. The week ahead is looking relatively quiet apart from having to take Wilson to the vet for a check-up midweek. Whatever you are up to, take care and stay safe.