The Day is My Oyster TWTW # 73

This week has been a pretty stressful one. I’m not intending to go into  detail, but let’s just say additional isolation caused by coronavirus lockdown and Alzheimer’s are not good bedfellows.

To make matters worse my car has sprung a coolant leak which I can’t get access to fix so I’ve had to track down a garage that is open and willing to have a look at the problem. Where this falls within the realms of essential or non-essential isn’t clear but without the car it’s going to be difficult to do some of the things that are essential.


This week has also been one where I’ve had literally no appointments in my diary relating to work. There have been a few emails going back and forth but no day has been fully focused on work. It’s also  been a short week because of the Bank Holiday, but that seems like a comment of a time long ago rather than something that was relevant just a couple of months ago. It also looks unlikely that the early May Bank Holiday which was shifted to accomodate VE Day celebrations is going to have the meaning that it might otherwise have had 75 years after the original date.


We spent a couple of evenings this week re-watching Bond films – Skyfall Spectre. We’ve mostly been watching things we’ve previously recorded or have on DVD – reruns of Father Brown, Carry On films – anything gentle that avoids the 24-7 news churn.

I’ve also been watching the new series of Bosch on Amazon which has been one of the highlights in what otherwise has been a pretty stressful week. A show made for binge watching if ever there was one.


I finished reading Alan Bennett’s Keeping On Keeping On and started a Maigret novel, The Grand Banks Cafe. Despite what should be lots of extra free time my reading rate has slowed right down, I think because I’m doing other things and at the end of the day (my usual reading time), I’m too tired to stay awake for very long.

I think books are important right now and I loved this story of a bag of mystery books.

We’re still awaiting the outcome of the public consultation on the future of our local libraries. Given the personality of the decision maker it’s fairly likely to be bad news as he lacks the imagination to do anything other than close enough of them to make the budget balance. Perversely this means that my local library will probably escape as it’s the one that serves his local patch – gotta look after his own image afterall.


I’ve had some seedlings to transplant into bigger growing modules this week, they’re too small to go out on the allotment yet. They’re cabbage and cauliflower plants, but because the sun faded the ink on the tray labels I can’t yet tell which is which until the plants themselves get a little bigger. I know I have a roughly equal proportion of each but not sure which is which yet!

We had some rain at the end of the week, which has helped soften up the soil on the allotment a bit so I did manage to get some digging done for some of my daily exercise.


Another short one this week, I’ll be trying to get my car back on the road this coming week and then seeing how things play out. I hope wherever you, you stay safe and well.

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.


Unstable Times (Quick Links 119)

The world feels like it’s a lot less stable this week than it was last. I won’t go into all the news from around the world as it’s easy enough to find. What worries me is that the people who are “in charge” do not really feel competent to me.


I used the Hive website this week to order a couple of books. It’s the first time I’ve used them and I was really impressed. Primarily they are there to support local bookshops in the UK, and you can order anything in their catalogue and have it delivered to your local independent bookshop – they will also deliver to you directly.

As a result of my order (which was cheaper than on either Amazon or Waterstones) I discovered an independent bookshop that I didn’t even know existed, and is less than 5 miles from my house. Ordered on a Tuesday morning, they were ready to be collected by lunchtime on the Wednesday. The bookshop I collected it from is a great little store, and I’ll probably be going back again some when soon. See below for what I ordered.


I didn’t write a quarterly update at the end of March. Nobody seems to have noticed. I felt that I was repeating myself a little bit doing them, so I just didn’t write it. Probably won’t with quarters 2, 3 or 4 either.


Work – I’ve been writing some workshop proposals and outlines this week, a lot of hours in front of a computer screen.


Allotment – Although we had a really wet start to the week, things had dried up by Wednesday and stayed dry for the rest of the week. This enabled me to get some seeds sown (beetroot, radish, lettuce & rainbow chard), and also plant some Horseradish.


Currently Reading – I finished “A Time of Gifts” by Patrick Leigh Fermor [LINK] and started “Travels” by Michael Crichton [LINK].

The two books I ordered from from Hive are: “Turning: Lessons from Swimming Berlin’s Lakes” by Jessica J. Lee [LINK] and “Floating: A Return to Waterlog” by Joe Minihane [LINK]


The Week In Wildlife In Pictures – [LINK]


Bosch Season 4 – This is now available on Amazon Prime Video. Seasons 1 to 3 were amazing, so hoping this one will be too. I’ve watch the first couple of episodes already, and they were really good – bodes well for the rest.


Swimming with Sperm Wales in Sri- Lanka – [LINK]


That’s all folks, next week we have a mini-heatwave forecast, if this proves to be true I hope to get some time in the garden and on the allotment. I  should also hear about one of the tenders that was submitted a while back, and I have a dental check-up to look forward to. Assuming of course that we don’t all get incinerated in a nuclear fireball. Hope to see you all next week.

Second Quarter Review 2017

Each year for the past few years I’ve been doing a year end review; last year I split that across the year, doing one at the end of each quarter. This year I’m going to try and do the same as last and do a quarterly review – books I’ve read, films/TV programmes I’ve watched and other things related to life, work and the allotment. The 2017 Quarter One Review is here if you’re interested.


Work – It’s been a very quiet quarter. I’ve been doing a lot of proposals and business development work, but it has yet to lead to any paid contracts. I think to an extent that uncertainty around Brexit, the General Election, and a few other things mean that things are quieter than they were this time last year, and as we now enter a traditionally quiet time that will probably continue for a while yet. I’m conscious as to how long a contract drought can last before I need to bring in a wage or income from somewhere else. I’m not there yet, but it is something I’m thinking about at the moment.


Allotment – These second quarter months really mark the start of when things really get going in the new season. Although it’s been a little bit odd with quite a few failed or only partial germination, most notably with sweetcorn, courgettes and cucumbers. Second sowings have been more successful, but the timings have been no different to last year, although the weather has been a little bit cooler in April & May, although June was a scorcher! So far this year doesn’t feel as strong as last year, but that’s just the ups and downs of growing.


Books – I’ve reached my GoodReads target of reading 25 books early. It feels like such an arbitrary number to me, I sometimes wonder why I bother with the challenge, but I’ll leave it alone for now.

Highlights this quarter, include Guests of Summer: A House Martin Love Story by Theunis Piersma and Bee Quest by Dave Goulson. Both excellent natural history books and both sadly showing evidence of decline in many of the amazing species on our planet.


Films & TV – Still watching the reruns of  “All Creatures Great & Small“. Although, apart from the Christmas special all have been shown now, and the channel has started back from the first episode again. I have a good few stacked on our DVR still to watch.

I did enjoy the BBCs Line of Duty, although this is in its fourth season, it’s the first one I’ve watched. Although some of it has been a bit of a stretch, it had me watching each week. I’ve also been watching a few things on Amazon Video. Bosch returned for Season 3, and was excellent, it’s a series that keeps getting stronger. I’ve also been catching up on The Walking Dead and Fear The Walking Dead.

Finally I’m going to mention American Gods. I had great hopes for this adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s book, and although there were some high points generally it was a disappointment.


Life In General – Although things are moving on there is still a lot to do following the passing of my Dad and Grandma. I suspect that it will be a running theme of the year and dominate a lot of what I do during the course of the year. I’m more aware that I’m thinking about my Dad and being a bit introspective in terms of my own life and it’s direction.

I’m also waiting to hear about my Mum having a knee replacement, which is likely to be sometime before the end of the calendar year, so the upcoming six months, have a certain level of uncertainty about them.

I’ve also been having car trouble, it’s not let me down, but has been back and forth to the garage for a scheduled repair where a part failed repeatedly, this might mean that I have to replace the car in due course, but I’ll see how that goes.

First Quarter Review 2017

Each year for the past few years I’ve been doing a year end review; last year I split that across the year, doing one at the end of each quarter. This year I’m going to try and do the same as last and do a quarterly review – books I’ve read, films/TV programmes I’ve watched and other things related to life, work and the allotment.


Work – Last year was my first full year being self-employed, it had its ups and downs, and as I enter my second year I’d like to be a little busier than I am but in some ways with everything that has been going on generally in life (see below), having some extra time for that has been useful. I’m trying to grow things a little this year, and am looking at new areas of work to help spread my horizons a little more and hopefully bring in some more work over time.


Allotment – The first quarter is all about getting things ready really. The weather hasn’t been that kind in terms of being able to get onto the plot but the last few weeks of this quarter have seen things picking up. We’ve enjoyed fresh vegetables all through the winter and continue to do so in the spring. I’m looking forward to what I hope will be another good year on the plot, with it providing a significant proportion of our food during the coming months.


Books – Well according to GoodReads I’ve read 18 books so far this year. That feels like a lot, but a couple were short books or novellas, so perhaps it’s not as many as it at first seems. There wasn’t really anything that stood out particularly, although some of the images in Yellowstone by David Quammen were amazing.


Films & TV – TV has been a bit of a disappointment so far this year, I had high hopes for the adaptation of Len Deighton’s SS-GB, but in the end I was pretty disappointed by it. The one thing I have been watching and enjoying though is “All Creatures Great & Small“. This was first shown in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s and I remember it well from my childhood. One of the Freeview channels has been repeating episodes each afternoon, and we’ve been recording them and then watching them when nothing else is on. They hold up pretty well and it’s been quite an indulgence to rewatch them.

On the film front there are a few that stick in my mind. Rogue One was a highlight at the start of the year. I do like Star Wars films, and this one is no exception. It’s also the first film that I’ve been to watch in the cinema for quite a long time. I’d also add The Magnificent Seven reboot with Denzel Washington & Chris Pratt; Hell or High Water with Jeff Bridges & Chris Pine; The Legend of Tarzan with Alexander Skarsgard & Samuel L Jackson; In a Valley of Violence with Ethan Hawke & John Travolta; and finally Swallows and Amazons, another reboot.


Life In General –  As regular readers will know, I lost my Dad at the end of last year and then early in January my Grandma. Loosing my Dad has been particularly hard and I still think it will be sometime before things return to “normal”, whatever that looks like. Much of these first few months of this year has been taken up with various things in connection with these two events – solicitors, dealing with companies, bureaucracy, etc. I am a little astounded by how little some companies care about their customers in these situations and how just getting something right first time would be essential. It seems that this isn’t the case for many of them.

I’ve also had some health issues of my own to deal with, and that will be ongoing for a while I think.

Being my own boss has helped give me the time to deal with a lot of this, I know that were I still working for my old employer that this wouldn’t have been possible in the same way, and ultimately may have lead to more conflict. However I can’t continue to give this much time to some of these things, it’s not critical yet, but something I am conscious of and need to keep under review, and try to resolve some of the outstanding items.

First Quarter Review 2016

Each year for the past few years I’ve been doing a year end review; books I’ve read, films/tv programmes I’ve watched and other things related to work and the allotment. You can read the end of 2015 here, if you’re interested.

The problem I have is trying to remember stuff (that might be an age thing). I guess that the things that were really good, tend to stick in my mind, as they should, but some of the things that were okay but not outstanding, tend to get forgotten.

So I thought I’d try doing a quick review of each quarter of the year, during 2016; rather than trying to remember everything in December. We’ll see how it goes, and hopefully I’ll remember to do ones at the end of June and September!

Work

Last year I went from being an employee to being self-employed. It was a significant moment for me, and started out well. Although the first three months of this year have been quieter than the tail end of last year, there’s still be a steady flow of work and this has also allowed me to think about goal setting for the year, and also work on some other projects. I don’t want to talk about those other projects at the moment, except to say that they focus more on the allotment / growing / fork-to-fork side of things, and although they are unlikely to make me rich (not that I ever particularly want to be rich), I hope that they might eventually generate some income, and perhaps give me a better quality more sustainable lifestyle. We’ll see.

I’ve also started much more consciously sharing my work side, posts on this blog like the Quick Links that are appearing on Tuesdays, and some new pages are a step in that direction. If anyone has any feedback on those things or any questions, then do please leave a comment below.

Allotment

As you might expect the tale end of winter is a quiet time on the allotment, and although we’ve been continuing to harvest brassicas, leeks and a few other small things, not much has really been happening, apart from the bits that link to work (see above), and I hope I’ll be able to share more on that in due course.

Things are starting to pick up now though, as the weather gets warmer and heats up the soil, the risk of frost decreases and the days get longer. Soon things will be in full swing. I’m looking forward to what I hope will be a good, productive year.

Books

So far I seem to have managed to read 14 books in the past three months, which I am quite surprised about. You can see what I’ve been reading here. Of them, there are a couple that stand out for me. Colter by Rick Bass is one and The Road To Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson is the other. The latter speaks to me because it touches on some of the things that I feel are going wrong with this country, and without wishing to get too political here and now, it was refreshing to read that I am not alone with my thoughts and perceptions. The former of the two was by a new author to me, and I’ll say now if you have a problem with hunting for food, you might want to give this one a miss, as Colter is a German Short-haired Pointer that is the author’s hunting dog, and a lot of the book is devoted to hunts. With that caveat I’d recommend both.

Films & TV

A few things here. Firstly the second season of Bosch, has just aired on Amazon Prime. I mentioned the first season in my review of 2015, and I’m pleased it was commissioned for a second season, and hopefully there will be a third. Although it was only released at the beginning of the month, I have already managed to watch all ten episodes and loved it! I’d thoroughly recommend to anyone who likes crime drama

I’ve also watched the most recent Bond film – Spectre when it went to DVD, although I enjoyed it, I don’t really want to rave about it as it was okay, but not that outstanding. If I was writing this in December I probably wouldn’t even mention it.

A final mention though for A Walk in the Woods, adapted from Bill Bryson’s novel of the same name. Again another DVD watch, but one that I really enjoyed. My only criticism is that it came to a somewhat abrupt end, and was over before I felt it really got going. Robert Redford and Nick Nolte were excellent.

Life In General

Is pretty good I think; we managed to have our first holiday in about three years in March, another benefit of being my own boss now and not having to worry about the threat of being made redundant. I’m enjoying working from home, and setting my own goals and timetables. I have lots planned for this year, and things I want to get achieved. So far so good though, looks like I’m on course.

My Review of 2015

As 2015 winds its way into 2016, I thought I would sit and review a few bits of my year.

Work

On the work front it’s been a significant year for me. About 12 months ago, I was working out numbers and calculating where I might end up if I accepted a voluntary redundancy offer. By the end of July I had gone from being an employee to being self-employed and my own boss. I wasn’t quite planning things that way, but so far my new business has been going well enough to keep me working and provide an income, as well as allow me to do some other development work, but there is still much more for me to do, and whilst I need to sit and do some planning for 2016 and how this is going to work for me, I don’t really know what next year will bring on the work front.

This change in my work, although probably one of the biggest steps I’ve taken in my life, and potentially very stressful, has given me a much better work / life balance than I had before and maybe have ever had. I don’t know how it’s going to work out in the longer term, but I feel like I’m generally moving in the right direction.

Allotment

This year has been one of my best years on the allotment. We’ve pretty much been self-sufficient for vegetables from late spring, all through the summer and into autumn, only have to buy things like mushrooms and peppers, which I didn’t grow. Next year, I’m planning on growing peppers, so that should change as well. I’ve also enjoyed my plot more than I ever have. I know that sounds a little odd, but I’ve really gotten engaged in what I’ve been doing and been keeping much better records than ever before in a pocket notebook, so that I can look back and see how things have been. As the winter has approached I’ve kept a few things going and we’ve had a supply of winter vegetables as well. I’m now looking forward to next year, with even bigger plans.

Books

Last year was a poor year for me, finding time to read, and at the start of this year, I set my sights relatively low, not anticipating reading many books. In the end I’ve ended up reading nearly 50 books (I might actually achieve 50 before the year is out), which has quite surprised me. You can see what I’ve been reading on GoodReads, here.

My book of the year has to be Common Ground by Rob Cowen it’s an incredible book, which I’ve now read twice, and still dip into again and again. It’s made me reconnect much more with urban wildlife, as Rob tells the story of his “edgelands” and the wildlife near Bilton in Harrogate. It’s full of vivid descriptions, and stories putting the reader in the place of the wildlife as well as being a really personal account. I look forward to reading more by this author in the future.

My other highlights are also all natural history books, including H is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald, The Peregrine by J A Baker, Claxton by Mark Cocker,  and Notes From Walnut Tree Farm & Wildwood by the late Roger Deakin. I could name more, and probably I’ve enjoyed nearly everything I’ve read this year. I just hope that 2016 brings more of the same. We’ll see.

Films & TV

I can’t say that I there was anything really memorable to write about here. I enjoyed the final Hobbit movie, but otherwise I don’t really remember what else I’ve watched this year. On the TV side there have been a few things, but the one that I really want to mention is Bosch which has been available on Amazon Video. This has bought Michael Connelly’s character from over 20 books to the small screen – Harry Bosch. It’s been a great series and I’m pleased that there is going to be a second season, probably early next year.

2016?

As for next year, I don’t know what I want from the year yet. I need to sit and do some planning, both professionally and personally. Set myself some targets and goals. I might come back and share this in due course.

2014 Review and a Look Ahead

I don’t tend to do review of the year posts each year, sometimes I’ll take a theme and just cover that, other times I won’t bother at all. The latter is more often the norm. 2014 however has been a “bit of a year” for me. So I thought I’d just write out a few highlights and one or two low bits too for good measure.

Work

I’d say that the year as a whole has been backdropped by work-life balance, with the balance being unevenly tilted towards work. I’ve had to reapply for my job as part of a restructure, and it’s been pretty full on. I’ve been offered voluntary redundancy twice (and we’re just going for a third round now), I’ve not applied on both occasions, but am giving the third time some serious consideration.

Life

On the life side of the scale it’s been a tiring year. I’ve done far less, due to pressures of work than I would like. I’ve noticed that I’ve been far less present on social media platforms, as well as reading less books and generally having less time for relaxation.

We lost Sparky our elder dog back in March, and then got Ruby at the end of June. I still miss Sparky every day, and things still feel very empty without him around. Wilson has taken well to being the older dog, and I’m really pleased and impressed with the way he’s turned out into such a well rounded dog.

Allotment

The allotment has been going along quite happily, it’s not been the best of years, but it’s been far from the worst, and I’m setting a good basis for next year. I’ve managed a few video posts, and have a year ending one to go up, as soon as it’s posted to YouTube.

Books

As I mentioned I’ve read far less than I have done in previous years, mainly due to having less free time. I would however single out a few books I’ve read (I read these in 2014, but they may not have been published this year) to mention here:

The House of Dolls by David Hewson – There’s no such thing as a  bad book by David Hewson, and this new series set in Amsterdam has all the hallmarks of being fantastic. This first in the series is excellent and I look forward to reading the next one, hopefully in 2015.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline – This took me back to my childhood and the computer games that I used to play.

The Burning Room by Michael Connelly – The latest Harry Bosch, and a great addition to the canon, and likely to be a milestone step in the series. I’m not sure where Michael Connelly is going next here, but there are a number of options, and again I look forward to the next in the series. (I also loved the Amazon pilot of Bosch, and can’t wait for the full series).

Films

Again, a few to single out (and again I watched them in 2014, but they may have been released before that year):

Dawn  of the Planet of the Apes – Only recently watched this, but I loved the direction that the movie went in following on from the previous one, and abandoning the Charlton Heston era movies (and the awful Mark Wahlberg remake).

Captain America: The Winter Soldier – I love the Marvel movies (and the comic books too), and I’ve seen a few others this year as well; Thor: The Dark World and The Guardians of the Galaxy. It’s a close choice between Capt. and Guardians, but again, I think the way that the story and characters have been bought on since the first Captain America movie, plus Avengers: Assemble give this one the edge.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – Loved this. Wasn’t sure that it would ever work as trilogy of films, but it does. Looking forward to the final film too, although that will be a 2015 watch for me.

Godzilla – A remake that remain truer to the original and a great film.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire – I’ve never read the books, but love the films, again looking forward to the final two parts of this series too.

And Looking Ahead to 2015?

I’m not sure what 2015 holds. More upheaval at work I expect, and I need to make a decision about voluntary redundancy again. There will also be more  books to read and more films to watch. I don’t really do resolutions, but I’ve got a few aims for 2015.

  1. Be more balanced of temper. I think in part 2014 has been characterised by me having a shorter fuse than usual. I’m not happy about this, so want it to change. More counting to ten I suspect in 2015.
  2. Better work – life balance than above.
  3. Read more, although be realistic about what’s achievable. I also want to get through the “To Be Read” backlog mountain. Although I’m not setting any firm systems in place to do this as I have in the past.
  4. Have a good year on the allotment, and try to keep a better photo and video record of what’s going on there.
  5. Write more. Both blog posts, but also get back into writing properly.

There are lots of other things in my head (you could always add; lose weight, be fitter etc) but the above are the main aims.