The Revolving Door of Lockdown TWTW # 108

Back into Lockdown, thanks to an incompetent government that puts GDP and being popular above social values and doing the right thing.


The thing that I’ve missed the most this week is only being able to get out of the house for exercise once a day. I think Ruby has missed it just as much as me. I’ve been out each day first thing, for our daily dog walk, as it’s early it seems to make the day feel much longer, particularly by lunchtime.

I do support the lockdown though, it’s needed, but I do wonder why our government can’t see it’s own mistakes and look to those countries who have managed to curb the virus and haven’t gone into a succession of rollercoaster lockdowns and restrictions.


Reading. Falling back on favourites I read The Way Through the Woods by Colin Dexter, which I enjoyed although couldn’t help thinking that he was writing this with a possible transfer to the small screen in mind (which happened). I also read A Life on Our Planet by David Attenborough, which was a bit of a busman’s holiday and a little disappointing. Not because it wasn’t very well written and very truthful and accurate but because despite the profile of the author I think it will do very little to change the way the world is. I think I am increasingly becoming resigned to the fact that as a race we won’t do the things that we must do to prevent our own extinction as a species. Collectively we are too selfish, there are individuals who are living within their own means but overall I fear that we will continue to destroy the planet. I don’t want to turn this into a rant but there is no prospect that world governments can sort this out.


Watching. Not much really. A few repeats, and we’ve been enjoying Rick Stein’s new Cornwall series and Ann has binged watched the BBC series Traces (this one wasn’t really for me). Otherwise the TV’s not been on all that much.


Allotment. We’ve had a serious cold snap this week, parts of the country have had a good blanket of snow, and although we seem to have escaped that, we’ve had a good frost each night. I’m pleased because that is good for the garlic that I planted (cold weather is needed to help the garlic form cloves within the the bulb), and good for killing some of the bugs and other pests that will otherwise proliferate in the spring. It has meant that I’ve not been able to do much else on the plot itself however as the ground has been frozen most of the time. It looks like we might be in for some warmer weather in the coming week though.


Work. For me the working year has yet to take off. I’ve been looking through some reports that were published at the end of last year that I didn’t manage to read before Christmas but that are important documents in my line of work and I will have to understand for a couple of projects that I am due to be working on. I suspect that the new lockdown will once again disrupt much of this work though.


I spent some of my time this week sorting through a box of old family photos. I remember many of the times the images captured but not all, possibly because I was too young or just wasn’t present for them. I’ve still got a lot to go through, there are many boxes of slides to look through and that will undoubtedly be more time consuming. Many of the photos contain the ghosts of people who are no longer with us, and again some of whom I recognise and a few that I don’t (some have the names of subjects written on the back but many will probably be lost to time).


I seem to have picked up the “Week That Was” series again but I’m still struggling to write something sensible, so for now I will say until next time, but Stay Safe and I hope you remain fit and healthy.

The Weeks To Come 2021

I had planned to write and publish this yesterday, but I really didn’t feel up to it. Mentally I lurch from frustration to fear about the world outside my front door. I think that I am becoming more of a hermit each day.

I guess 2020 won’t be a hard act to follow, but then again 2021 probably has a lot to live up to. I’m not expecting much real change until at least the summer and honestly I am expecting our government to totally mess-up the vaccination programme or at the very least turn them into super-spreader events, particularly with the rise of a new variant.

This isn’t going to be a regular post, as not much has changed in the last week. I’ve been doing nothing of much consequence, although thinking a lot about the coming year and what I want from it. I talked about this a little in my end of year post and haven’t much to add to that.


Reading. I’ve read a couple of books this last week. Raven Black by Ann Cleeves (if you’ve watched the BBC’s Shetland series, it’s based on these books, and this one a story in one of the early seasons). It took me over the new year period and meant that I have already hit my GoodReads target so absolutely no pressure now to read books. Of course that isn’t going to stop me and I’ve read Grace Dent’s memoir Hungry which I will say is very honest, at times very funny and at others completely heartbreaking. It covers Dent’s fathers dementia, and honestly was a little too close to some of my experiences, so was at time very hard going, but I did finish it.


Watching. We’ve been catching up on a lot of Christmas specials, but also watching series 2 of Endeavor as it’s been repeated in the week between Christmas and New Year. Despite being a fan of Inspector Morse and Lewis this has passed us by until quite recently. Enjoyable but has an annoying cliffhanger ending to the series, which doesn’t look like we’ll see the resolution to anytime soon as the next series doesn’t appear to be in the schedules yet.


Allotment. I went down to the allotment yesterday. It really is my happy place in terms of being able to clear my head. I did a little bit of digging and some weeding and had a good think about the coming seasons and what I’m going to plant where. I came away feeling much more level.

I’ve sown some sweet peas this week. They’re seeds that I saved from the plants in my Mum’s garden. They’re a very constant memory of growing up in that house. They were always there, on a particular wall, just along from a passion flower bush. Mum used to describe them as everlasting sweet peas. I’m not sure whether that’s because they are a particular variety (there are plenty of varieties with that name) or whether it’s simply because she just used to let them self-seed in the same place each year.



Well that’s it for now. I’m not sure whether I’m going back to posting weekly or not, so there may or may not be something coming in a weeks time. In the meantime, however long that might be; Take Care and Stay Safe.

All Over The Place TWTW # 97

This post could be all over the place. It seems WordPress have updated the editor that I use to write posts, and to be blunt, it’s awful. Admittedly part of this is having to learn a new system and I can’t find the things I want or make it do what I want it to. But I suspect part of it is some designers “clever” idea of a minimalist set up. Suffice to say it’s ****, so apologies if things are all over the place and a little off kilter.

Add that to the fact that I had my first “Christmas Shopping” email this week, it’s been an interesting week overall. I have no idea what our Christmas is going to be like this year, but suffice to say it will be different.

We don’t have Thanksgiving in the UK but one of the posts from a newsletter that I read is thinking about how to make that a safe event.


I realised this week that I’ve read 70 books so far this year. This is a year that I started out thinking back on January 1st was going to be one where I would have very little time for reading. The coronavirus arrived in this country and lockdown happened and despite thinking throughout lockdown that I was struggling to read anything, I seem to have read 70 books. Go figure.

I’ve been reading Charles Stross’s Labyrinth Index this week, although I must admit to being a little bit lost by the story, even though it did fully resolve itself in the last 100 or so pages and I really liked the ending with an iconic aircraft that was one of the loves of my childhood. I’ve also been listening to Featherhood by Charlie Gilmour which has been an interesting listen.


We’ve not had the television on all that much this week, mostly we’ve been too tired to bother and since it’s mostly depressing news we’ve not watched much apart from an Australian series – Mystery Road 2 – we watched the first season last year and there’ve been a couple of movies with the same lead character. Unfortunately it’s not really holding our attention so I’m not sure whether we will get to the end of it or not.


I seem to be all caught up with podcasts at the moment, which is the first time in a while.


Not much allotment action this week due to the rain. We’ve had a couple of intense storms sweep through and they’ve brought a lot of water down. My visits have mostly been to make sure everything is okay rather than actually do anything. I’m pleased to see that the garlic has sprouted, but no signs from the onions or broad beans just yet.


I had a delivery of some of the new Field Notes this week. The new United States of Letterpress editions and the latest American National Parks set. I am using less pocket notebooks at the moment, mostly because I am out and about less but I do like these. I got mine from Nero’s Notes if you’re interested in ordering your own, they provide great service.


I also completed a volume of my journal this week. This represents volume one of 2020, about 230ish pages. For those interested the book itself is a Leuchtturm1917, ruled, A5, hardcover.


A trip to the vets this week for Wilson’s regular blood test. We had to drive through the worst of one of the storms and maybe it’s my age but I’ve never felt less like driving anywhere. If it hadn’t been for the appointment I think we might have found somewhere safe to pull over and wait out the weather front as it lashed down. Motorways were flooded and although the majority of drivers were being sensible there were the odd handful who seemed to think that their mortality and that of those around them was expendable.

We await the results of the blood test now – probably due Monday.


I’ve been enjoying watching Matt Maran’s fox videos this week.


That’s it for this week, I’ve run out of steam trying to get this post together, hopefully when it goes live it will at least be readable.

Thanks for reading, take care and stay safe and well.

If Life Gives You Green Tomatoes TWTW # 92

Greetings from my kitchen, where in between typing these sentences I’m making Green Tomato Chutney. It’s 8am and the smell is amazing boiling down the mix of tomatoes, apples, onions and sultanas to a thick pulpy mix.

This is a little bit of therapy, making something from home grown produce that will take well over an hours to prepare, but will keep me going in chutney for some time. More details below.


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I decided yesterday to pick the remaining tomatoes on the allotment to avoid them getting blight – the weather conditions have been right for this the past few days and I don’t want to lose the crop waiting for it to ripen when I could do something with it. It was worth doing too, as I had over 3.5 kgs of tomatoes. I separated off those that will ripen on the window sill and the rest are going to chutney. The recipe I’m using is here. I ended up with 9 full jars which is good going.

In addition to the tomatoes we’ve also been picking more patti-pans and squashes on the allotment this week. Otherwise things are at a bit of a crossroad between seasons where winter crops are growing but not ready yet and summer stuff is coming to an end.

I’ll need to think about my seed order soon too. I got a little caught out by shops being closed due to Covid this year, so am thinking I’ll be order all in one go instead of spreading them out over time from different suppliers like I have in previous years.


After some six weeks of delay by BT they finally got around to turning on our fibre connection this week. I can’t actually say things appear any faster, although theoretically when I test the line the download speed is about four times faster than before. I suspect where I’ll notice it is uploading files as that has increased by an even greater degree. The speed of the wi-fi has of course not changed, so unless I’m hardwired into the router that will determine the speed of most things.


I’ve had some work to do this week. An unexpected commission from a client that I’ve been working on between other things. It reminded me that I need to do something about the library of technical documents that I’ve been building over the last few years. It is all electronic and not stored in the same place, some split across different computers and folders. Ideally I’d like it all in one place as reference materials for future projects, but I need to take some time out to drag it all together, and also to make an appropriate structure for it to sit in. It’s not been top of my list of priorities, but it’s a pain when I need to look for something and it’s often stored in a folder of a project where I lasted worked on it.


I took quite a lot of photos this week, but they were on film, so I can’t share any of them just yet. I have at least posted the roll off for processing, so hopefully there’ll be something to share next time. They’re all standard colour 35mm so no more infrared yet. I also bought a new battery for one of my old film cameras, and am planning to use that next.


When you look at the face of the guy in this video preview and read the title you’re expecting something different to watch actually happens next:


 

I’ve been reading the Pandemic Kitchen Newsletter this week. You can subscribe for free and I’d recommend it if you are at all interested in cooking. There have only been a couple of editions so far, but you can look at the archives before subscribing if you’re not sure.

I’ve also been finishing the audio book of James Holland’s Battle of Britain. It’s a really good listen with first hand accounts taken from diaries written at the time and starting back with the allied retreat from Dunkirk, through to late 1940.


Schools return this week in most of England. Or at least they do at the time of writing. Given the way the government has handled the whole thing, you have my sympathy if you’re a parent wondering whether you and your children will be safe or are just simply trying to work out exactly what it is you are supposed to be doing! The whole eat out / lose weight; stay home / go to work; algorithm results / teachers results; government approach to organising the proverbial couldn’t be more farcical if it were a situation comedy. Thinking about it, you also have my sympathy if you’re a writer of political comedies and are constantly being out done by the real thing as opposed to the fiction you are trying to write.


That’s it for this week, and if you’ve made it this far thanks for reading. As always stay safe and take care.

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.

It’s Got To Be Prefect TWTW # 87

On Wednesday morning I wrote in my diary that work was a bit sparse. That afternoon I was asked to do something at short notice. A few hours work, but a few hours of paid work. Funny how things work out.

Other than that little work blip my week has been split between sorting out things at my Mum’s house, doing chores at my own house and a little bit of creative time, dog walks and the allotment. That said I’m not sure where the week went Monday morning quickly became Sunday evening.


I found my old Prefect and Librarian badges in a matchbox in a draw at my Mum’s house. I thought that they’d probably been lost years ago, and in truth I probably haven’t laid eyes on them since about 1988. It was a bit of mixed emotions that I found them and some other papers and things from my time at school and university. These are items that I will keep and treasure and others that I will let go. I’m pretty sure that I don’t need my lab record books anymore, and reading through them didn’t really spark any memories for me.

By coincidence my friend @Documentally also came across his Prefects badge when he was tidying his “shed”, he wrote about it in his newsletter.


I’ve been reading more Maigret – Maigret and the Informer – and Austin Kleon’s – Steal Like an Artist & Keep Going – also some other bits and pieces but not really completing anything else.

We’ve been watching  some old films including the old James Bond movie – You Only Live Twice – as well as continuing to avoid watching too much news and getting sucked into Doomscrolling.


I had some brassica plants delivered and I planted them out onto the allotment on Sunday. They’re plants for late winter or early spring harvesting so I won’t be eating them anytime soon. For now I have to stop everything else from eating them – slugs, pigeons and caterpillars in particular – I’ve netted and put out slug traps with beer and salt.


I don’t think I’ll be up for any bathtime ballet anytime soon.


Well that’s it for this last week. Have a good one and stay safe out there.