Binary Seven TWTW # 111

Time passes slowly in lockdown but I’ll admit to a little surprise that it’s the end of January already. I suspect I have that same feeling each year but it’s a milestone that moves me closer to lighter mornings again, and that is always a good thing.

I’ve been paying attention to the silhouettes of trees on our morning dog walks this week. In that moment before sunrise when there is enough light to distinguish a tree from the background gloom but not enough to properly make out the details, the texture of the trunk etc.


Had a batch of cards delivered this week from Iain Welch. I’ve been trying to support more independent artists during the successive lockdown periods and I’d recommend Iain’s cards if you’re looking for something dognified. I used his Christmas cards this last year and wanted to restock some of the others that we’ve used up for various things. I’d recommend them and also following him on Instagram for a daily dose of cheer.


Reading. I’ve been dipping in and out of a lot of things this week, some Betjeman, some more Morse stories, but I haven’t stuck with any of them yet. I think in part that’s due to tiredness, having had a couple of sleepless nights I’ve not read in the afternoons or evenings when I often read because I’ve been too tired.


Watching. We’ve been dipping back into the old Inspector Morse’s a lot this past week, I think we’ve probably watched three or four of them as well as another couple of episodes of Endeavour.

I did enjoy watching the video below:


Allotment. Another mostly washed out week, I’ve harvested a few leeks for a stew, but haven’t been able to do much else. A bag of onion sets arrived in the post which I’ll be planting into modules and keeping indoors or in the potting shed until the weather improves a bit and the risk of frost is much lower.


George Orwell on food.


Well that’s about it for this week. As always stay safe and take care.

Tiers to the Eyes TWTW # 106

Our Christmas tree is up. We caved and put it up this week. Like many people it seems that with everything shitty that is going on in the world having a bit of joy is worth every penny and so enjoying the Christmas tree for a week or two more than we might normally? Yeah why not.

Like many our Christmas will be different this year, and we’re going to embrace that rather than try to
shoe-horn our “traditional” celebrations into a pandemic. We won’t be mixing and potentially spreading covid amongst our loved ones.

Thinking about this has got me thinking about Christmases of old. There were a number of years where we had a very fixed format. At the time my Great Grandmother had had a number of strokes and was quite severely disabled by them, she wasn’t mobile and couldn’t speak. She was in a nursing home and we would visit her through the year but on Christmas morning my Mum and Grandma would go and see her, while my Dad and I would go and pick up my Great Auntie. We’d collect her mid-morning and kill some time playing Monopoly until we were ready to gather for our Christmas lunch, meeting up with my Mum, Grandma and her partner Bill. Six of us for Christmas lunch, occasionally with my Mum’s sister joining us. Lunch was timed so that we could finish in time to watch The Queen’s Christmas address, and was always delicious.
After lunch and The Queen, most of us would fall asleep, as a youngster then I’d sit and watch whatever the BBC or ITV had to offer as their Christmas afternoon film.

I’m not sure how many years this carried on for, but I can remember going from being at primary school to being able to drive and chauffeuring the various members of the family about. Latterly my Great Grandmother had passed on and arrangements changed slightly.

Over the years since the arrangements have changed further, as has the member of the family taking the lead. Nowadays that tends to be me but of course this year will be different again.


So how have you been doing this week? We’ve come out of the second lockdown and now depending on where you live we’re in tiers, or perhaps that should be tears? News of vaccines seems very promising but it will still take a little time before we are able to relax our precautions.

Fortunately we haven’t had to have any further trips to the vets and Ruby seems to have returned to normal. So our dog walks and other arrangements seem to be normalised too.


I’ve been reading some more Inspector Morse this week – The Wench is Dead by Colin Dexter – I think the rest of this year is going to be seen out by continuing with Morse, Maigret, Cadfael and the characters of Alistair Maclean.


I’ve been enjoying my tea advent calendar, making a bit of a morning ritual about seeing what each new days tea is. I’ve been posting each days tea on my Instagram stories.


Austin Kleon – How To Break in a Sharpie





Not much more to add this week. I’m winding up my work for the year and starting to think about goals, targets and some personal development things for next year over the next couple of weeks. I want to invest some proper time in this given how much of an impact coronavirus has had this year now seems to be a good time to be having a hard think about future direction.

Wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, stay safe and well.

A Boy and His Dog TWTW # 104

Hope everyone is safe and well, we seem to be doing okay, although I must admit to being a little bit surprised it’s Sunday again and I’m writing this. They say time flies when you’re having fun, well it seems to pass quite quickly under lockdown too.


I have a fairly busy week coming up so some of this week has been around getting things ready for it. More Teams and Zoom in my near future. I’ve been chasing a client for confirmation that they were happy with a price I’d quoted, as they seem to be sending me various meeting requests for a project but with no formal confirmation that they want me involved. A slight aside, I’ve been burnt before when something similar happened and when I submitted a bill they refused to pay it because they hadn’t formally confirmed they wanted me involved. So now I always make sure I have something in writing.


We started feeding the garden birds again this week. I reckon it took the starlings about 3 minutes to realise that there were mealworms in the feeder once again.


My Mum continues to be mostly symptom free but has had a couple of days where she has said she doesn’t feel too great. Technically today marks the day when she is no longer considered infectious. I suspect that what happens next more depends on what is happening more widely in the care home, so time will tell.


Lots of talk of Covid vaccine(s), which looks promising. I’ve also had my flu jab this week.


I finished reading The Raven in the Foregate by Ellis Peters and dove straight into an Alistair Maclean – The Way To Dusty Death (I was sure that I’d read this before but I don’t remember the story so perhaps not). GoodReads told me that this was the 80th book I’d read this year. I’d set my target at 20, expecting to be busy with a couple of projects and a few other things, but you know Covid happened, lockdowns, less work; so a 400% achievement. It does feel like I’ve read some authors more than others though so I had a look and about a third are across; Maclean, Ellis, Dexter, Simenon, Camilleri & Herron. By genre I’d say this is more typical of a younger me or perhaps comfort reading as I’ve tended towards more non-fiction of recent years. Whatever it is I’m grateful that I’ve been able to read as much as I have this year.



I’ve been listening to The Shadow Over Innsmouth this week. I’m about halfway through and really enjoying it. If you’ve not come across this series before you should go back and listen to The Case of Charles Dexter Ward and The Whisperer in Darkness which are the preceding series, and although they stand alone they work much better if you have listened from the beginning. The link above will give you all three. Recommended.


I was sorting through lots of old photographs this week, and I came across several of the pets I had as a child. I say they were mine, but they were of course family pets although I do remember them all fondly. Here’s a quick slide show.


I made some more Tea Bread this week, and recorded a short video of the process.


Looking Up

Hungry Birds


Well that’s about all I have for this week. Stay safe and take care.


Who Are You? Who Am I? TWTW # 103

I’m writing this on Sunday morning after being woken up at 2.50am, 4am and 5.45am by dogs who: wanted to get on the bed / needed to go for a pee / wanted their breakfast. Suffice to say if this is complete nonsense – or at least more nonsense that usual – you know why.

How are you doing?


We heard on Tuesday that Mum tested positive for coronavirus. So far she’s only showing mild symptoms so our hopes are that she will remain that way. Her test was on the Sunday before so today is the mid-point of what the doctors are saying is her infectious period. We’ve been in touch with her on the phone most days, and I really appreciate the staff in the home, some of whom have also caught the virus, for looking after her and all the other residents during this time. The simple task of taking a phone to Mum and all the rigmarole of changing PPE before and after, sanitising the phone and all the other task they now have to do that they didn’t before must be stressful enough without the added concern that they are constantly at risk of exposure themselves. Standing on our doorsteps clapping (haven’t seen much of that recently) just simply isn’t enough. Carers, nurses and all the other essential workers that we rely on, not just in these times but all the time just are not recognised for what they do and are certainly not appropriately recompensed.


Lockdown life certainly makes things a little quieter. My trips out have been to get groceries and to walk the dogs. The weather put pay to any serious work on the allotment this week, so that was also combined with a dog walk. I’ve been doing a few jobs around the house including repair our back step which had become pretty rotten. I managed to make the repairs with leftover wood and fixings from other projects. I like these little projects where in reality I have no formal training or skills but life has made me wise enough to work out what needs doing and do it.

The rest of my time has been spent thinking about Mum and generally trying to stay sane.


I’ve been doing quite a bit of baking and cooking this week. I enjoy making our meals from scratch and this week it’s as much been about distracting my brain as anything else. I always have a few basics and change other ingredients around by what I have on the allotment or have bought. The onion and parsnip soup that I mentioned last week, sprout chilli this week. With just the two of us many of these last for a couple of nights and then I move on to something else.


I’ve gotten through another Inspector Morse mystery this week – The Secret of Annexe 3 by Colin Dexter. I wasn’t actually planning on reading another one so soon, but after drifting between other things I picked this one up one evening and read it across a few days. I moved onto a Brother Cadfael – The Raven in the Foregate by Ellis Peters after that which I’m still reading. It’s early days, no one has died yet.


Looking for something to do during lockdown but are tired of jigsaw puzzles – well you could always try this.


The Emboughered by Dickie Straker

The Lookout Cookbook

A Single Map is Enough

First Mile Podcast

Tim Ferris – Podcast with Scott Kelly


Ding Dong (best played with sound). I’m glad he’s gone, I’d have been happier if he’d been sacked after his “eye-test”. My fear is that he’s already done so much damage that it can’t be undone and on January 1st we’ll truly start to see just what a piece of work he really is.


Until next time – stay safe and take care.

Shifting Focus TWTW # 93

Greetings. The photo above is one from the roll that I sent off to be developed last week. This weeks blog is a bit image and camera talk heavy, so if that’s not you bag, feel free to skip those bits.

It’s not all been cameras this week, if I was still working, I would have said that it has been a short working week because of the Bank Holiday but I don’t really pay that much attention to those now. I was reminded that I haven’t reviewed my goals and targets yet this year. They were set before coronavirus was a thing so looking at them I’m surprised just how much I have achieved, but they still need a little bit of a reset.


I’ve been listening to podcasts this week, trying to catch up on a bit of a backlog. I enjoyed Tim Ferris’s discussion with Hugh Jackman.

 

I am also reminded of the post on Tim Ferris’s blog about why not to become famous.


I’ve been reading quite a bit of Thomas Merton this week. I’m still working my way through his journals which has been a multi-year experience (I think I started back in 2014 or 2015), and I’ve now just finished the 5th volume (of 7) which has taken me about 18 months to read. I have the remaining two volumes on my bedside bookcase and I’ve bought the next volume to the top of the pile so I might start that sometime soon.

I’ve also been reading The Cloud Forest by Peter Matthiessen which I read many years ago and recently found a copy in a box in the loft, so bought it out to have a reread.


I’ve been getting the allotment ready for it’s next planting phase. It’s coming to that time of year when over-wintering onion sets, garlic and broad beans need to be planted / sown. I’ve been getting the ground ready and they’ll be going in over the next few weekends.


Another trailer for the new James Bond movie dropped this week. I think I’ve seen the majority of the Bond movies in the cinema since Moonraker, but I’ve no desire to go and sit in a cinema and watch this new one just yet. So I guess I’ll be waiting for a DVD release.


I got my developed roll of film back this week. I was testing an old camera as much as I was taking pictures. The above panorama has become a bit of an obligatory test shot for me, even if I have to stitch it together manually afterwards, this one is six individual shots. The pic of me and Wilson at the top of this post is also one of the roll (thanks to Ann for being photographer). Here are a few more.

I’m pretty happy with the overall results and that the camera is working well for probably 50+ years old.

By a strange quirk of fate I also seem to have bought a new (secondhand) camera. I was actually looking for a lense and found a couple but they were at the upper end of what I felt was a realistic price. I then found a camera with the lense I wanted in an ebay auction. For some reason it wasn’t getting a lot of attention so I watched it, and bid at the last minute and got the lense and the camera for a good price, well below what the other lenses were on offer for. The seller stated that it was untested, so I was expecting it to not be working, and unsurprisingly the camera is dead but the lense works well. I’ll have a look at the camera when I have more time to see if I can make it work again, but for now I’m looking forward to trying out my new lense.

I’ve also been investigating what I can do with my old Minolta DSLR that no longer works and I also think I’ve found a solution for that. I’ve found an adapter that has good reviews that will enable me to use those lenses on a Canon body (which I already own). I won’t have all of the features but I’ll have enough that I should be able to use them. I’ll have to wait for it to get here before I can see whether the reviews are accurate.

I’m enjoying getting back into photography, and in particular film photography after all these years. I still need to brush up my skills but I’m pleased with some of the results I’ve been getting.

I haven’t forgotten digital either. I took Ruby out for a long walk this week and we went down to see if we could find the Swans that normally nest behind the old gravel works. Because of lockdown we weren’t able to do this when the penn would have been sitting on the nest, so I’ve no idea whether they bred this year or not and if they did whether they were successful, and we didn’t find any evidence that we could definitively say was them. There were however a lot of swans at the head of the creek and we took a few digital pics. Funnily enough this was harder than it sounds due to the hazy sunshine and not being able to use a viewfinder and having to rely on the camera’s screen. Some of them came out okay though:


Well that’s it for this week. Sorry this one’s been a bit image heavy, but thanks if you’ve made it this far.

Take care and stay safe.

It Could Be Gas Masks TWTW # 89

It’s been a hot week, temperatures in the high 20’s and low 30’s most of the week, and also humid. At the time of writing we’ve been waiting for forecast thunderstorms, but haven’t had any. We did take advantage of the hot weather to wash some of the dogs toys. It confused Ruby a bit as she couldn’t quite work out why we suspended them from the washing line – was this some new kind of game?

This week has been a bit busier than last. I took Wilson back to the vets at the start of the week for his repeat blood test. This came back later in the week with a slightly surprising result of being back in the normal range. This of course means that we have to go back for another test at a later date – around two months time – this means that we don’t have to change his medication for now, which is a good thing but doesn’t explain the reason for the earlier high reading, so that will have to remain a mystery.


I finished my roll of infrared film this week, and have sent it off for processing. I parked on top of Portsdown Hill to expose the last couple of frames and took some more panormas of the harbour. While I was there with my old film camera on a tripod another car pulled into the layby behind me and out jumped another photographer with a modern DSLR with an enormous zoom lense on the front of it. We said a quick “Hi”, and went on with our respective photos.

I haven’t had the developed images back yet, but should get them this week I hope.

I took out my oldest DSLR to take some photos this week. I have a sentimental attachment to it because I’ve had it for so long. Most phone cameras have a higher number of megapixels on them than this old camera, but we’ve taken a lot of images together. I started taking some pictures in the garden and when I looked at them on the LCD they were very underexposed. I thought it might be the display but they were the same looking at them on a computer. A bit of research on the internet showed that it’s a known problem with that particular model, and either I am lucky that mine has lasted so long without the problem appearing or I’m unlucky because it didn’t fail while the camera was still under warranty.

Either way the camera no longer takes photos properly but I’m not sure what I’m going to do about it. I have a number of lenses for it and they will still fit one of my old film cameras (which I haven’t used in a very long time, so I’m not sure what condition that’s in either). There’ll be some experimenting ahead.


My allotment time has been limited this week because it’s been so hot. Most of my time there has been spent watering. I did plant out some leeks mid-week, which seem to be doing okay in the heat. We also had a significant number of cauliflowers this week, and are still working our way through the mini-glut.


People have been receiving mysterious packages of seeds in the post.


I’ve been reading a couple of different things this week. I’m slowly working my way through London War Notes by Mollie Panter-Downes, reading a bit most days. These are a collection of articles that the author wrote for The New Yorker during the Second World War on her observations of reflections and observations of what was happening in London. There are some significant historical moments covered, and it’s interesting that whilst so many poor parallels have been drawn between WWII and the coronavirus pandemic, there are some genuine comparisons. Think gas masks instead of masks in shops and on public transport and rationing instead of panic buying and shortages. There is also a fascinating comparison between what the media is reporting and what Panter-Downes is actually observing. It also makes me think twice about using those phrases like “the new normal” and “the before times”. Assuming that we as a species can wake up to what we need to do to save our planet the period of the coronavirus will also pass and like WWII those people still alive who can remember it will diminish and we will only have these sorts of accounts to remind us what it was actually like. In the meantime I’m likely to be keeping to a diet of minimum external media.

I’ve also been reading A Man Without Breath by Philip Kerr – in reality I’ve only just started this but I’m enjoying it so far, a crime mystery set in Germany (& Russia) during WWII.


Worth getting up early on Sunday morning to photograph Uranus, even if the picture does look like I’ve captured a spec of dust on the lense.

That’s it for this week, take care and stay safe.

Annual Trip, New Procedure TWTW # 86

Well hello again, welcome!

It’s been a busy week for me, there seems to have been lots happening, some of it important and some less so but it has filled the time.

We had a trip to the vets for annual check-ups and vaccinations. You no longer go into the practice, but let them know that you’ve arrived via the reception window and then when it’s your turn the vet comes out to the car park to see you. If needed they then take your pet inside for whatever treatment is required. This of course pre-supposes that they can of course get your pet into the surgery. Neither of our dogs were keen to enter (they’re not at the best of times), and it took me walking across the car park with the vet to the door to convince them. We had some unusual test results for one so will have to repeat the exercise in a months time (assuming that the procedure is the same).


I’ve read a couple of books this week. Spike Milligan’s excellent Hitler, My Part in his Downfall which was a quick short read, and another Brother Cadfael. Ellis Peter’s The Pilgrim of Hate. I’ve since started reading the next in the series – An Excellent Mystery – these more recent books don’t seem to be as good, and so far there hasn’t been the usual medieval murder and I’m a third of the way through the story.


I’ve been taking a few photos this week, and my roll of infrared film arrived so I’ve loaded that into a camera and have been experimenting. I’ve read a few different articles about getting the best results and so have been trying a few different approaches. Ultimately I’ll see how the roll comes out but I’m about two-thirds of the way through it.


I’ve been enjoying see the world through other people’s views with Window Swap. Touring the world one window at a time.


I went to see my Mum on Friday. It’s the first time that I’ve been able to see her in the care home since she went in there. They’ve opened up to socially distanced visits in their garden just this week. Although the visit was short – only 15 minutes allowed – she seems to be settling in very well.


Thanks to the person who bought me a virtual coffee this week, I won’t name them as I don’t feel like I have their permissions to do so, but they should know who they are. Your generosity helps offset the hosting fees of the blog and is very much appreciated. Thank you.


Yellowstone’s Zone of Death where you might just be able to get away with murder.


Newsletter author David Charles is currently cycling around Britain and recording a daily vlog on YouTube. In part because in a world without Covid-19 he would be cycling to Athens on the Thighs of Steel fundraiser for grassroots refugee projects, but for obvious reasons that has been cancelled. so instead he’s heading out into the “post-Brexit, mid-Covid pre-apocalypse Britain”.

He’s just passed through my neck of the woods, and by the time this post goes live he’ll probably be somewhere in East Sussex / Essex I’d guess.


Our broadband upgrade didn’t happen as it was supposed to, so I’m scheduling this post ahead of time so that the internet can do it’s thing in case something happens next week and I’m unable to get online to hit the post button myself.

Stay safe out there and look after yourself.

Zoomed Out with Blank Exposures TWTW # 85

Hello! Another week has passed and here I am again, writing about what I’ve been up to in the past week.


I had both the roll of film I sent off for developing and some new rolls of film arrive on the same day this week. There should be plenty of more photos to come as I expose each of these rolls. I’m going to use another different camera on the next roll.

The roll that was developed was a little bit disappointing however. Not because some of the pictures weren’t good, but because I only ended up with 15 frames out of 24.

Looking at the negatives it looks like the camera shutter wasn’t working properly on some of the exposures, and although it was allowing me to advance the roll after pressing the shutter, the mirror didn’t appear to be lifting to expose the film. I’ve had a good look at the camera, but can’t replicate the problem. On the exposed film it was an intermittent problem so there are some “blank” exposures here and there throughout the roll and the last couple of frames. I will give the camera another go, but not straight away.

I’m also planning to experiment with some infrared film, there’s a roll of film on the way (and I already own a red filter, which helps to enhance the image).


I managed to corral all of my online meetings into one day this week, by the end of the day I was a bit Zoomed out (despite having to switch between different platforms depending on who the meeting was with). One of the meetings was only a briefing but as it was at lunchtime I turned off my camera and sound and listened in while eating my lunch, pretty sure no one noticed, but I wonder what else people get up to when they’re supposed to be in a meeting. Outside of that one day work has been quite quiet again this week, with a few emails to deal with but little else outside of that one day.


I finished reading The Book of Trespass by Nick Hayes earlier this week, my review is here. I’ve also read another review book, Vesper Flights by Helen Macdonald who wrote H is for Hawk, that review is here. In other book news my “to be read” pile is increasing looking like Mount Tsundoku.


I had to go to the pharmacy this week, it’s the first time that I’ve been into town since non-essential shops have been opened. There were lots of people in coffee shops and the shopping centre has set up a “keep-left” one way system but a few people obviously don’t know their left from right. I’d estimate that about one in four people were wearing a mask, and whilst it’s not required please wear one. If you’re asymptomatic it will protect other people, and if you’re wearing one it helps to protect you from the selfish idiots. Wear a mask!


My allotment time this week was mostly spent weeding, the couple of days of rain we had helped them to flourish, I wish it had the same effect on my food crops!


I’ve been trying to catch a glimpse of the comet Neowise this week, but haven’t had much luck. It’s quite low in the sky at the moment, and only really visible in the early hours of the morning so it mostly obscured by houses if I’m looking from our garden. It should be easier to see later in the month, if not I might have to go somewhere with a better view of the horizon. Did manage to get some nice morning Moon pics though.


We’re off to the vets in the coming week, it’s that time for annual boosters, and at the end of the week we’re supposed to be being switched to superfast fibre broadband. It’s a free upgrade that we didn’t asked for and were just told was happening. So this time next week things will either be completely FUBARed or much faster, we’ll see.

Have a great week wherever you may be and stay safe!


Black Swan Smackdown – TWTW # 21

img_20190605_134016-animation

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).


img_20190607_160403_429

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!