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.


 

Black Swan Smackdown – TWTW # 21

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I feel a little like I’ve been running around a lot this last week. Ruled to some extent by the timings of appointments with my Mum’s doctor and with our vet, for Wilson. Just one of those weeks, and the upcoming one is looking like being a little similar, although with a different set of appointments and people to see and places to be.


On Tuesday I walked down to the creek to see if the Mute Swans that nest there had hatched any cygnets yet, and I was treated to a bit of a surprise. Here’s what I wrote on Instagram:

This Black Swan got a little too close to the nesting Mute Swan pair, and kept coming back despite being chased off by the Cob a couple of times previously.

The Cob eventually went all in and pursued the Black Swan up on to the mud where he pinned it to the ground and then proceeded to attack, pecking at the back, neck and head of the Black Swan. It was brutal to watch and went on for several minutes. Here’s the last 30 seconds where the Black Swan managed to escape and appears to be okay.

Nesting Mute Swans are very territorial and won’t tolerate other swans on their “patch”. The female is still sitting on the nest, no sign of chicks yet.

The video is below, it’s a bit blurry because I was so far away, but you get the gist of what was going on.


I’ve been watching Jo and Michael’s travels on their narrowboat on YouTube for a while. They posted this video yesterday of their crossing of the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct (best watched full screen).


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I’ve been reading “The Sixteen Trees of the Somme” by Lars Mytting this week. It’s probably one of the best books I’ve read this year so far and I thoroughly recommend it. It’s a little different to my normal fair, and although there is a mystery at the heart of the story it is much more about the characters and the people.

 

 

 


img_20190607_155746699I also got sent some surprise back-catalogue books from my friends at Elliott & Thompson Books. I haven’t had a chance to properly look at them yet but hope to get to them later this coming week.

 

 

 

 


How do authors earn a living


Six Weeks, One Hundred Miles of Walking in Japan


That’s about it for this week, I’m hoping to get my tomatoes set-up in the potting shed this week at some point, and there are several other things that I’d like to get done in the gaps in my diary. We’ll see how that goes!

 

TWTW # 14 – A Scorcher

It’s Bank Holiday Monday as I write this, and I’m a little bit later than usual sitting down to think about what’s happened in the last week. Essentially a short working week for most with the long weekend around Easter and quiet for me as I am waiting for my client to respond regarding a report. He has responded and is taking a wider view across his organisation before giving formal comments.

It’s been getting progressively warmer all week with the weekend turning into quite a scorcher and I’ve been doing quite a bit allotment and garden wise, while I’ve had the time. I’ve sown some lettuce seed as individual plugs – some for my Mum’s garden and the remainder as back-ups for the allotment. I’ve potted on some tomatoes and have got some more seed to sow a few more plants.

I’ve also started off my runner beans. Garden lore says that you should sow your runner bean seeds on the first Bank Holiday in May and plant them out on the second one, so these are a little early but that might not be a bad thing as they were covered in a little mould which I washed off and they seem to be okay – not soft or any obvious other damage other than the mould – so if they don’t grow I’ll have time to get some more.

My car was MOT’d and serviced at the beginning of the week. It passed and so there’s nothing further to do until next year or unless there’s a problem.

Wilson was also back at the vets for his next round of tests – we’re awaiting the results.


I’ve been reading “The Way Home – Tales from a Life Without Technology” by Mark Boyle, essentially the stories of the author when he completely gave up technology, including electricity and other mains utilities, living on an island near Ireland. I’m not that far in, but I’m enjoying it so far.

Slightly ironically I’m reading it on my Kindle.


I’ve also  got  the  (re)review  of “Under  The  Rock” coming  up next weekend with the chance to receive a copy of the paperback.



Been watching the new season of Bosch on Amazon over the weekend, it’s another great season of the show, and it’s great that such high quality tv can be be made to this standard – thoroughly recommended! If you’ve read Michael Connelly’s “Two Kinds of Truth”, it’s mostly based on that.


TWTW # 7 Too Cold For Spuds

Another week is over and another month, 2019 seems to be galloping at a pace. In a weeks time I’ll be another year older. This February has been reported as the hottest on record with temperatures getting into the 20’s on several consecutive days, which  has been mad. A few people seem to have gotten their potatoes in the ground already, including a few on my allotment site. I’m going to hold off for another week or so, as I’ve planted too early before and lost part of the crop due to a late cold snap.

I got round to sowing a few seeds this week, broccoli, cauliflower, swede and leeks all made it into pots. I’ve been thinking of trying some different approaches this year to what I grow on the allotment and am planning to utilise more plants from seed (I hope), and top up from the local nursery with anything I’m missing, doesn’t germinate or for some different varieties. I’ve bought odd plants from them before and they supply good stock, so either way we should be good.


I finished “After The Fire” by Henning Mankell and thoroughly enjoyed it. Starting with a fire – an arson attack – I thought that this was going to be a crime novel, and although there is the crime, the book is about much more than that. As with Mankell’s other books it is incredibly well written and set in the Swedish archipelago so a different pace to life, but one where you sense the scenery is both beautiful and isolating at the same time (sounds like my cup of tea). The multi-stranded story is held together well by the first person narration and ultimately I was a little sad to have finished it, knowing that as the author has sadly passed away there won’t be any chance of a continuation of the characters.

I may well revisit some of Mankell’s other books, and just check that I’ve read all of them.