On The Road Again TWTW # 42

img_0008I’m writing this on Sunday afternoon, as I have a meeting on Monday morning and if I don’t do this now it’s likely that it won’t happen at all. I’ve had a week with quite a bit of travel and I’ve got another week of the same coming up.

Work’s been keeping me pretty busy so I’ve been relishing the other things, like early morning dog walks that take up a smaller part of the day.


img_0005On a return trip from Somerset last week I stopped in the village where I often take a break from the road. The shops were still open and I had a browse in one of the charity shops. I mostly only ever look at the books, and found a complete box-set of Colin Dexter’s, Inspector Morse novels. I’ve read some before but never all of them, and it was probably nearly twenty years ago that I last read one. An opportunity too good to miss I thought.

As I was going to pay I also noticed something else that will make a perfect Christmas present so I got that too. A great break from travelling.


img_0002This week I’ve mostly been reading listening to The Dog Went Over The Mountain: Travels with Albie, An American Journey by Peter Zheutlin. In between chapters of that I’ve been reading the first of the Inspector Morse novels –  Last Bus To Woodstock.

I reckon I’ll finish both this week,but I’m not sure what will be up next. I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the number of books in my “To Be Read” pile and wanting to make some serious inroads into it before I add too many more books to it. It’s been growing a little bit out of control this year. Even though I’ve read a lot of books this year I’ve not made a noticeable dent as the pile has grown at a greater rate.


I did a bit of a “What’s In My Bag” post earlier last week after my Somerset trip.


I’ve started working on the main bed on the allotment, trying to get it dug. It’s quite weedy so I’m going to break it up over several weeks and not rush it so that I get all of the weeds out. Weather depending it should take a few visits but there’s not rush it just needs to be done by Spring.


Well that’s about it for this  week. As I mentioned I’m on the road again a bit this week and working on client project work in between trips.

A Fox In The Darkness At Nighttime TWTW # 41

We had our first big Autumn / Winter storm of the weekend. Wet and windy, trees down, power cuts, the whole shebang. For once the weather warning was pretty accurate, which is what they’re for. Otherwise this week has mostly been about the client work. I’ve reached some fairly major milestones with a couple of clients but as it’s been half-term here this last week my clients have mostly been quiet. It’s interesting working in that ecosystem again where school holidays often dictate staff holidays (not unsurprisingly) but not my own.


img_20191029_154754176I had a delivery of some new ink this week. This was a little present to myself for reaching client milestones.

They’re Sky Blue and Prairie Green. I love the green, but I have to say that I’m not sure who’s sky is that blue. It’s much lighter than what I would say is Sky Blue. These are a couple of special edition bottles, and I hope that the green becomes a regular part of their range as I would use it on a regular basis. If not when it’s gone, it’s gone.

 


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This week I’ve mostly been reading Red Moon by Kim Stanley Robinson. I say reading because I haven’t been much progress, although I did finally finish it late last night. Most of my reading has been around bedtime but sleep has been creeping up on me by the time I’ve read a few pages and so the story is building very slowly.

I am enjoying it though, I wonder whether it is going to be the first book of a trilogy, like his Mars books were (Red, Blue, Green), as the ending doesn’t resolve any of the plot. There is an untitled “Kim Stanley Robinson Book 2” listed on Amazon which you can pre-order for October 2020, so it seems quite possible.


The government has banned fracking. I’m a little surprised by the announcement, as it seemed the government was going to be forever the hypocrite of saying they were doing wonderful things to stop climate change whilst allowing the practice of fracking to take place. It’s interesting though that I haven’t seen any comment on this from the fracking industry itself. I’m sure they’re not happy about it and in all honesty would expect them to sue the government.


How HP Lovecraft became the world’s favourite horror writer


Bread and Books – Seth Godin


Photo’s from the California wildfires


The Bic Biro: Design Classics


Aaron Sorkin: An Open Letter to Mark Zuckerberg – The New York Times


Remember: it’s austerity, not Europe that broke Britain


We’ve been watching Season 2 of Jack Ryan, in fact we watched all 8 episodes over Friday to Sunday evenings. It was good, but not as good as Season 1, although I’m glad it didn’t follow the ISIS / Al-Qaeda trope that so many TV series seem to. Overall probably about 2.5 stars out of 5.


Something has been digging up one of the recently dug and planted (broad beans) beds on the allotment. I’m not sure what it was although I had my suspicions that it might have been the badgers. So I set up the trail cam to see if I could catch the culprit in action. It didn’t actually capture anything in the act, although it did capture a picture of a fox. I’m not sure what happened but I think a combination of the cold and low batteries means that after it captured that one image the camera stopped working. So I might have to try again, once again I get some new batteries.

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Other than that I’ve been quiet on the plot because of the stormy weather.


img_20191029_160017559The laptop that I’m writing this on, and is my current main business and everything else tool is beginning to show it’s age and I’ve been thinking that I need to upgrade it sooner rather than later. My plan currently is to wait until Black Friday / Cyber Monday in the hope that I might get a little bit of a discount on a new one. Having researched what I need and getting it down to 3 or 4 possibilities. If that happens the plan is to then move files and everything else over during the downtime between Christmas and New Year. In the meantime my current machine took about six hours to do an update last week. Fortunately I’d finished working for the day, and so just left the machine running until it was done (just before I went to bed).


The week ahead sees me on the road again for a client visit and I have a choice of audiobooks for the journey – not sure which I’m going to opt for yet. I also need to work out what “physical” book I’m going to pick up next.

Whatever you’re up to this week have a good one!

Beware! Boats Overhead! TWTW #40

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I’m writing this after coming back from a late Sunday breakfast by the quayside at Emsworth where the local sailing club are lifting out boats for winter storage and maintenance. It’s not everyday that you see a sailing boat flying across the skies albeit helped by a crane. I’ve seen this sort of thing a number of times, and no I’ve never seen them drop one! It was a lovely sunny morning, and for once I had a proper camera – as opposed to a phone camera – with me. Although clearly the last time I was using it, I was shooting black and white.

Outside of that it’s been a really busy week workwise, although I’ve mostly been working at home moving projects forward. I am pleased that I’ve finished one part of a particular project and the results look quite good – if I do say so myself. I’ll be sending them to the client next week. Hopefully they’ll be pleased to as we reach the end of the month and it’s time to send some bills out!


I used to travel on the Eurostar a lot, but haven’t in probably the last five years. I always used to enjoy it, although there were some times when for various reasons there was a problem. I once spent 4 hours stuck in Lille, trying to get to Brussels from London where my outgoing train had been delayed by a lineside fire and I’d had to go from London Waterloo to Ashford in Kent by conventional trains to pick up a Eurostar from there only to find that so was everyone else. This train only made it as far as Lille and everyone who wanted to go to Brussels was turfed off having been told that there would be another Eurostar which would take us onwards and the train we were on was going to Paris instead. There was of course no train to take us onwards and we were all effectively stranded. I made it to Brussels late that evening, fortunately my hotel had kept my room for me, and after my meetings over the next couple of days, my return journey went without a hitch.

Some other people also have some interesting stories to tell.


Warren Ellis and Julian Simpson on how most of the business is in countries other than their home in the UK.


The official opening of Patrick Leigh Fermor’s house.


There’s been a lot of different interviews and videos of Edward Snowden, but this one on the Joe Rogan Experience kind of captured my interest. It’s long – nearly three hours – but worth a listen if you have the time.


This was possibly the most ridiculous thing I read this week (that wasn’t about Brexit or Donald Trump). Not because it isn’t true but because we as a species are completely stupid. To waste so much food (in the form of pumpkins) is something that we should be ashamed of. There is so much you can do with a pumpkin – soup, roast, jam, mash, side veg, chutney, pie, flan – the list is pretty much endless. So take a moment this Halloween and don’t waste that pumpkin you carve.


Fake News is pretty much a daily war-cry but this story is a worry.


The allotment was looking decidedly damp this week due to the rain we’ve had almost every week day. I did manage to take down the runner bean sticks / plants, so that bed is now ready to be dug, but it’ll need to dry out a bit first. A few more days like Sunday should soon see to that, if not I’ll have to get my tarpaulin out and do it that way. No rush though, it won’t be needed until March, but I would like to get it dug and get some manure on it.


Did Donald Trump give two women astronaut “the bird”? Well looks like he has form for it.


One of the Isle of Wight Sea Eagles has died and another is missing.


Europe’s carbon-rich peatlands show ‘widespread’ and ‘concerning’ drying trends


 

Well that’s about it for this week. Over the week ahead I’ve got a few appointments, including getting a flu jab (hopefully to keep me going through the winter), but otherwise I’ll be pushing forward with client work. Hope you have a great week, and as always feel free to say hi in the comments.


 

 

Watch Out For The Wicked Witch! TWTW # 34

I’m sorry this is posting later than normal – I thought I’d set it to post automatically this morning but something went wrong.

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Well it’s been another busy working week, I’ve been progressing things for clients and had another trip down to Somerset for a meeting with one of them. I like being busy, although it is easy to worry about making sure everything gets done, particularly with life outside of work being a little uncertain and at times also time consuming.

I stopped in a lay-by on my way back from Somerset on Thursday, it’s one that is only legally accessible to access from one side of the road, and I’ve travelled back via different routes before so only passed the lay-by before on the “wrong side” of the road. This time I pulled in to eat the sandwiches I’d made in the morning for a late lunch and saw this little cafe there. Apart from the imposing CCTV signs it looks like it might be a nice lunch stop, perhaps another time when I’m a bit early and they’re still open. I wondered aloud on Instagram about where Hansel & Gretel might be.


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I also picked up a little bluetooth receiver this week for the car. I’ve been doing a bit more travelling recently and there’s only so much Radio 4 you can listen to at the moment, when every other story is about Brexit. Using this I’ve been able to connect my phone to car radio and listen to audiobooks from my phone (and have the navigation prompts over the car radio, which interrupt the audiobooks seamlessly and then go back to the book). I’m impressed. I think I could also link my kindle to it to listen to the audiobooks that I have on there, but then wouldn’t be able to have that and the navigation available.


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Things on the allotment are starting to die back a bit at the moment. I need to go down with the wheelbarrow and bring back all the pumpkins and butternut squashes that are down there. There’s also been a manure delivery so I need to go down and move some of it across to my plot. Tomatoes are doing well in the potting shed, as is finally my first aubergine. I suspect it will be the only one I get this year. Although the plants have been covered in flowers this is the only one that has actually come to fruit.


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I picked up a few paperbacks on Saturday morning when I was passing the secondhand book shop. The Alistair Maclean’s are a bit of staple from my childhood, as is the Doctor Who book. The latter made more poignant as the author Terrance Dicks died very recently.


Love this electric JCB digger:


42 Douglas Adams quotes to live by


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In addition to the books I picked up on Saturday, I’ve been reading one of the new “Dragon Tatoo” books. I think it’s the second of the three that have been published postumously and on the basis of having read the first of the “new” books and now this one I don’t really think they are a patch on the originals. They’re a bit like fan-fiction taken too seriously by a publisher. I’m not even sure whether or not I’ll finish this one. I suspect I will but given that the only time I’ve really had a chance to read (other than audiobooks in the car) has been at bedtime, when I’m too tired to read for more than a few minutes, it’ll take a while.

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I’ve been listening to “I Contain Multitudes” by Ed Yong in the car. All about microbes and such and absolutely fascinating. This audiobook thing is a bit of an experiment. I used to have an Audible subscription, but I wasn’t listening to the books I was downloading and so paused it. If I catch up I might consider starting it again. After all a 4 hour roundtrip in the car or 6 hours on the train is a lot of listening.

Also in audio listening I noticed that both Roger Deakin’s BBC shorts The House and The Garden are available again online. Not sure how long they’ll be available for or whether they’ll be accessible outside of the UK, but they are worth a listen. His old short Cigarette on the Waveney is also available (cigarette is a type / name of a canoe).


I just picked up my personal journal to see if I’d missed anything that I should add to this post, and realised that I haven’t written anything in it since Monday, so it must have been a busy one!

I have a couple of personal meetings this week and it’s Ann’s birthday, but otherwise my time is mostly going to be occupied with work.

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Another Strange Anniversary : TWTW # 27

Another week that was supposed to go one way ended up taking a different direction, strange how despite all the planning things don’t seem to be turning out the way they were envisaged. It’s left me wondering how the week ahead will pan out, which looks like being another one at the moment, but could potentially change.


Four years ago I said goodbye to my last full time, paid job. Although at the time I didn’t really know how things were going to pan out, I’ve been asked a few times if I regret the decision to leave. Simply put the answer is no, although in the last four years combined, my income has probably been less than any of the years proceeding that, it allowed me to do many things. Although I didn’t know it at the time it allowed me to spend a lot more time with my Dad in the last year of his life. It allowed me to be present for some other difficult family things and possibly it reduced my stress levels and the chance I might have had a complete meltdown had I stayed where I was. Most of those things aren’t even tangible but they are most definitely real to me.

I’m still not quite sure where this freelance work is taking me or even if I can keep doing it at such a low level of income. There have been suggestions of offers of work, and I am always on the look out but it might not be sustainable in the long term. I still don’t regret that decision though.


A slightly unplanned trip to the library meant that I ended up with a couple of books, it was as a result of reading the latest newsletter from Joanne McNeil about Michael Seidenberg and the Brazenhead book store. It was the final paragraph of that newsletter:

Read an underread writer this summer in his honor. Any lonely and interesting-looking unfamiliar book at a used bookstore will do.

which prompted me to check-out In The Wet” by Nevil Shute and Uncommon Type” by Tom Hanks on my library card. Now I’m not sure that either of those two books technically qualifies but that paragraph was in my head when I was browsing the stacks and I knew that I hadn’t read a Nevil Shute book for probably close to 20 years, despite reading a lot of them in my late teens and early twenties. The Tom Hanks was one that I knew I would never buy new and possibly not even secondhand, so they both did kinda fit the bill.

Anyway the Nevil Shute was amazing and I remember why I liked him as an author. Probably not the best book of his I’ve read (A Town Like Alice & On The Beach are probably both better known and better books), but it did prompt me to go on a hunt in our loft to drag out some of his books that I have up there and now plan to read.

The Tom Hanks however was, well it was just a bit meh. It had some great blurbs on the cover and maybe it was just me but it just read a bit like it was one of his early movies. It’s a short story collection and I enjoyed a few of them, and there were some nice tricks with how the book is laid out, but just not my cup of tea.

I enjoy popping into the library every so often I seem to always find something that I’ve missed elsewhere or wanted to read, it’s a great resource that has suffered a lot from government austerity measures, so I’m pleased to support it.

I get to go back in the week ahead, return the books I have on loan and see what else they have for me.



After writing last week about reading the Shape of Water by Andrea Camilleri I was a little surprised to read his obituary, but interesting comments about the translation of Sicilian.


I finally got around to pickling some of the gherkins from the allotment this week.


Well that’s about all I have for this week. Who knows what’s going to happen in the week ahead, it may even be that it pans out according to plan!

My Ten (15) Favourite “Natural History” Books

I thought I’d sit and scribble out a list of my favourite Natural History books of all time. It wasn’t an easy task. I wanted to keep it to 10 books, but have ended up with 15, it could easily have been 20 or 30 and several of the authors I could easily of included second and third entries. I’m also sure there are many that I’ve missed, and memory plays tricks, but I remember all of these books fondly as “natural history” but one or two stretch this definition a little.

I recommend all of them, but appreciate that natural history might not be everyone’s
cup-of-tea and that this list is in not in a particular order other than the one that I wrote them in.

(Please note the links are Amazon affiliate links, so should you click on a link and buy that book I’ll receive a small commission).

  • My Family & Other Animals by Gerald Durrell This is probably well known to many but it is the biography of the young author on the island of Corfu where he moved with his family and how his time spent in the wilds of island shaped his life as a naturalist and conservationist.
  • The Island Within by Richard Nelson I discovered Richard Nelson through his podcast “Encounters” (which is sadly no longer being produced), this is his story of time spent on an uninhabited island near his home, the wildlife there and his exploration of it and the surrounding area.
  • Cry of the Kalahari by Mark & Delia Owens I remember reading this in my late teens and it evoked thoughts similar to those upon reading Born Free. Part adventure and part exploration log of the authors’ time in the Kalahari desert.
  • The Outermost House by Henry Beston Another well known classic written by the author from his time on Cape Cod in an off-grid shack.
  • Waterlog by Roger Deakin The classic wild swimming book and how the author seeks to swim in rivers, ponds, lakes all over the UK and beyond.
  • The Wild Places by Robert Macfarlane Of all of Robert Macfarlane’s books this is still my favourite. When originally written the author stated that there are only four places in the UK where you can go and not hear the noise of traffic. I wonder if that is still true or whether now there are any left.
  • Common Ground by Rob Cowen If I had to pick one book to be on this list it would be this one. It will probably divide it’s readership between those who love it, and those who don’t like it or understand it. I think it is simply brilliant.
  • The Ring of Bright Water by Gavin Maxwell Another classic, the story of the author and his time with Mij, Edal and Teko who are otters on the west coast of Scotland.
  • The Wild Marsh by Rick Bass American author Rick Bass takes us through a year in his life in the Yak valley as an author, naturalist and conservation activist.
  • A Single Swallow by Horatio Clare The journey from southern Africa to the UK as the author follows the migration journey of swallows in real time.
  • Rising Tide Falling Star by Phillip Hoare Simply put these are stories of the sea, but that is underselling the mesmerising and truly brilliant narrative.
  • Guests of Summer by Theunis Piersma A wonderful story of housemartins in a small Dutch village as the author chronicles their lives and those of other similar avian visitors.
  • Sacred Sierra by Jason Webster Fiction author buys run down farmhouse and chronicles his first year on the steep sided valley.
  • Nature Cure by Richard Mabey How nature helps to cure the depression suffered by the author when he moves to Norfolk.
  • Deep Country by Neil Ansell The journal of the authors five years in the Welsh hills in an off-grid cabin and his surroundings.

Half Way Point – TWTW # 26

This last week turned out not as expected. Last Monday was going to be one of those days where I was going to be on the go all day – which generally isn’t a problem – and hope that everything will work out fine and there won’t be any hiccups that throw things out. However before the day had even gotten started I had a call to say that my first meeting of the day had been cancelled, then a few moments later another call to say that another meeting had been postponed. By the time I would have been due to leave the house for the (now cancelled) first meeting, my entire day had been cleared. My unexpectedly free day gave me an opportunity to do some chores and a few other things that I would have done later in the week. I was grateful for the free time, although most of those meetings will have to be rebooked at some point.


Thanks to everyone who commented or contacted me by email about the upcoming changes here which I posted about earlier in the week. Your contacting me is appreciated. I don’t have any more news to share at the moment, but once I know what’s going on I’ll post about it.


The nice people at Elliott & Thompson books produced this advert for the book I reviewed a couple of weeks ago.


Speaking of reviews, I read and reviewed Every Breath You Take by Mark Broomfield this week. I also read the first of the Inspector Montalbano books – The Shape of Water by Andrea Camilleri.


We’re supposed to be moving towards a zero-carbon economy and part of that is phasing out fossil fuel powered vehicles in the not too distant future. That future is at the moment somewhat reliant on electric vehicles, but will there be enough “fuel” for them?


Related to that, perhaps Elon Musk isn’t all that he made out to be?


The allotment is doing well. I’m at the point of the year when I feel that perhaps the weeds are winning a bit, but I’m getting good crops of gherkins (for pickling), courgettes, lettuce, beetroot, cauliflower, onions and coming on quickly are runner beans and cucumbers.

I’ve sown some purple sprouting broccoli and kale this week, with the aim of having that as a follow on crop from the broad beans. I’ve also sown some new rows of lettuce and beetroot, again to have some crop continuity for what we’re harvesting right now.