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.



 

A Warm & Damp Sensation (TWTW # 3)

It’s been a cold week and we’ve seen a little bit of snow, although we seem to have escaped the worst of it there have been some quite significant falls just a few miles up the road, so very localised. Fortunately I’ve not really had to go anywhere too far or when I have it was before the snow fall.


We took our dog Wilson to the vet this week, nothing serious we think but it did necessitate gathering a wee sample the next morning. As with human samples this had to be collected from the first “wee of the day” mid stream. When I’ve had to do this in the past I’ve just improvised but the vet provided a collection kit this time. It was nothing glamorous, effectively a sample tube with a scoop attached to it. The only downfall with it, is the ability to see whether the sample tube is full. The warm and damp sensation on the back of your hand is a good indicator though.


I found this interesting infographic on the daily routines of creative people.


In this series of online articles the author has been cutting out one of the big 5 tech companies (Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Apple) from her life each week, with some fairly scary results (particularly with Google), she’s yet to do the final week when she cuts out all of them at the same time but they all make interesting reading.


I was given a copy of Maigret at Christmas for a Christmas present, and thoroughly enjoyed it having not really read any Maigret novels and only really coming across him through TV adaptations (Michael Gambon and more recently Rowan Atkinson). I thought I’d get another one and I’ve been reading that this week.

It was another good read and Georges Simenon has a really smooth and economic writing style.

 

 


I also watched a couple of episodes of the series “The Last Resort”. It’s a simple premise – nuclear submarine is order to launch a warhead via a recognised back-up system, but questions order as it appears there is no war / conflict going on. It is then attacked by it’s own side and goes on the run.

There’s some interesting parallels to it and what else is happening in the world (even though it appears to have been made over five years ago). I’m not sure how well it will stand up as a series, but I’m likely to watch a couple more just to see.


It seems that the US government shut down was good for the elephant seals.

The Week That Was # 2 (Experiments With Sourdough)

I’ve been wanting to do some sourdough baking for a while now. I already bake quite a bit of our own bread (mostly in a breadmaker), and regularly make pizza bases, rolls and other things and I wanted to give sourdough a try too.

I got a starter (you can make your own but I opted for the slightly easier option) from the Wild Baker and it arrived earlier in the week. I feed it (with flour and water) a couple of times and then it was ready to go.

There are a couple of quite long pauses for rising etc. in the sourdough process and I think next time, I’ll shift things around a bit so that these happen overnight rather than try and squeeze things all into a day-and-a-half.

That said the resulting loaf was fantastic (see above). Great tasting and a definite success. It’s always good when cookery of any kind goes well, but this was especially pleasing.


It’s been a pretty chilly week, with temperatures dropping below 0°C on most nights. This had meant that my home office has been a little inhospitable some mornings and so I’ve moved to our lounge to work.

I’ve been assisted by the dogs to keep me company (and warm), although I must admit they have been a little more distracting than normal. I assume that this is as much the change of routine for them as it is for me.

I’ve been asked by a potential client for a proposal for a piece of work, so I suspect that most of the coming week will be taken up in pulling that together. They have ambitious plans so it’s good that potentially I’ll be a part of that work.


I’m between books at the moment, but a quick visit into town to post a parcel took me past the secondhand bookshop.

I always try and leave more books with them than I take away, and this time I succeeded, although I have to admit to be quite pleased with the ones I found.

Best Reads of 2018

GoodReads prompted me this morning with an email about my year in books. You can see the update on my GoodReads page here. I’m not sure that I’ll get through anymore books before the end of the year, but I’ve managed to read 52 this year (although a few of these where actually quite short, so I’m not sure it’s quite the same as reading 52 tomes!)

There have been a few highlights for me out of the 52 though. In the order they were read, they include:

Adventures of a Young Naturalist: The Zoo Quest Expeditions by David Attenborough – Although this is essentially a reprint of some earlier editions of this book, it was wonderful to step back in time with the author to when an expedition wasn’t accompanied by loads of technology, and the wildlife was less vulnerable and exploited than it is today. As someone who is credited with being one of the great natural historians of modern times, this was originally written long before he was as well known as he is today. I enjoyed it immensely and am really pleased that I have the next volume in the series on my bookshelf to read, probably early next year or over the festive period.

Under The Rock: The Poetry of a Place by Benjamin Myers – Very much a book of the landscape, nature and the human interface I read most of this in just over a day. It was over too soon, and I know it’s a book that I am likely to revisit again and again. It’s also shaped how I look at the world now, giving me a different lense through which I see things.

The Light in the Dark: A Winter Journal by Horatio Clare – I’ve read several of this authors books this year, all have been excellent but this is the pick of the crop for me.  It’s the authors story of a winter through mental difficulties but one which is as inspiring as it is troubling. It’s a wonderfully written, candid account and another book that I know I will read time and again.

I’m leaving my list here, because although I’ve read many fine books these are the standout three for me, I can only hope that I read as many splendid ones in 2019.

Round and Around – (Quick Links 124)

The end of the week at last! It’s been a busy one for all sorts of reasons, but none of them being really work related. I’ve had a couple of nights of disturbed sleep with a poorly dog, and a few things to do with my Mum.

It was also Ruby’s birthday. She’s now 4 but it doesn’t seem like it’s been that long since we collected her, the time has flown by.

I’ve also spent quite a bit of time on the allotment (it’s about this time every year when I wonder if it’s all worth while).

I’m coming to the end of the week feeling pretty tired and worn out. Next week’s looking like being busy too (at least the first half).


I went to see Avengers: Infinity War on Wednesday.

I enjoyed the film, but felt a bit underwhelmed by it. Maybe it’s because it’s had so much hype for so long, but I felt that both of the two previous “Avengers” films were better. I also haven’t seen Dr Strange or Thor: Rangnorok, which I think probably meant that I missed a few things that might otherwise have made sense.

It’s still a good film though, and the next installment, next year should be the best of the bunch if they don’t mess it up.


Craig Mod Newsletter – I may have mentioned the excellent Roden Explorers newsletter from Craig Mod before (or I may not, I can’t remember). It’s an infrequent but excellent read. The latest edition [LINK] contains all sorts of interesting stuff, but the thing that stuck in my mind was his walk where he ended up with blisters and how he dealt with them. It made me positively wince as I read it. It’s well worth a read, and you can always sign up via the link at the top of the newsletter page.


Work – A quiet week overall, a few emails exchanged with a prospective client and a phone call with a recruitment consultant but otherwise that’s about it. I’ve been looking at possibly expanding my grow-your-own work, but not made any decisions about that yet.


Allotment – Busy week here. It’s that time of the year when everything is ready to go out onto the plot. This week I’ve transplanted runner beans, cucumbers, sweetcorn, courgettes, pumpkins, squash, Brussels sprouts and sown seed for more radish, lettuce, purple sprouting broccoli & rocket.

img_20180518_103314_490.jpgThe sweetcorn entailed the building of an enclosure to try and keep the badgers at bay should they try and eat it. Not sure I’ll be very successful in keeping them out if they’re determined, but at the end of the day I only need to try and dissuade them and hope they move on.

I’ve been doing similar in Mum’s garden, trying to get her plants out as well (very similar combinations to my own – probably because I’ve grown them for her). I also mowed her lawn and a few other odd jobs around the house.


Currently Reading – I’ve just finished reading “Under The Rock” by Ben Myers [LINK], I thoroughly enjoyed it. Not sure what’s up next.


The Week In Wildlife In Pictures – [LINK]


I’m thinking about taking a break from writing on the blog for a while. I know I’ve said that before but I feel like what I’m saying isn’t much, and it’s certainly not exciting. I’m also haven’t had the time to actually find much in the way of interesting stuff that I normally add for some time. I’m also getting a lot of spam comments and email sign ups, although the filters are catching just about all of them they’re pretty annoying, and I wonder if a break might stop them, if there are no new posts for a while. So there may not be a post next week or for some time. If you have any thoughts on what you like to read here then do leave me a comment. I’ll likely still be updating in places such as Instagram and Twitter where you can find me as @tontowilliams, but in the meantime take care until next time!