Emotionally Draining TWTW # 82

Hello! If you’re one of the new subscribers who have joined this week, welcome. This is my weekly post (The Week That Was), which is a review of what I’ve been up to in the previous week, or at least as much of it as I can remember.

This last week ranks as probably one of the most emotionally draining weeks of my life. I write the intro to these posts last and this weeks is a little bit shorter than normal because of what’s been going on – details below.


On Tuesday of this week my Mum went into a care home. She has Alzheimer’s Disease and for some time now it has been progressing to the point where we cannot provide the care that she needs by keeping her in her own home or that she would be safe to be there by herself. It’s a home that she has lived in for over 50 years, but no longer recognises as her home and constantly asked to be taken “home”. Her short term memory is failing and confusion and distress are not uncommon. She no longer recognises me all of the time, frequently confusing me with other people.

We know that this move is the right thing to do for her but it is possibly the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make.

We can already see though that it is the right thing. She has been much brighter in the few days that she’s been there and although there is still a period of adjustment, hopefully as she settles down and becomes familiar with her new surroundings some of the other memory issues that Mum has will be less of a burden for her.

There is also a period of adjustment for us to. Many of my routines were built around making sure that Mum was okay, and doing things for her that she could no longer manage. There will of course be new routines in time but it’s barely been a week, so it’s early days.


Speaking of new routines, I almost always go to the allotment on a Saturday morning. This week it was absolutely slinging it down with rain and so I did some other things and went on Sunday morning. I harvested a lot of loganberries and gooseberries as well as some potatoes and lettuce. The weeds love the rain and so there are plenty of those but also the other plants are looking good. With everything that’s been going on this year the plot isn’t looking quite how I’d like it to be and there are a lot of plants that I just haven’t had time for this year.


I finished reading David Sedaris’ Calypso and still have Valentine Warner’s Consolation of Food on the go. I’ve also been reading C S Forester’s The Good Shepherd which is being made into the movie Greyhound. I can see that depending on how they do the transfer to the big screen, if they keep to the story then either it will be an amazing film or a bit of a flop. I’d recomend reading the book whether or not you intend to see the film.


 


Black Lives Matter TWTW # 80

Catalysed by the murder by a police officer of George Floyd, there have been numerous protests around the world and in some cases violence. Some of this violence has been perpetuated by law enforcement, seemingly emboldened in America by a President who seeks to divide the country. But this is not an issue solely limited to America, my own country is not innocent.

The racism has to stop. I write those five words as a privileged white person who in many ways can’t begin to understand what has been considered “normal” by many a coloured person. Their version of “normal” has to cease. Equity needs to be the normal. If you don’t know what I am writing about then please go and educate yourself. There is a lot of information out there that shouldn’t be too hard to find, but I will point you towards this newsletter by my friend Documentally which contains a lot of links to useful information and things that you can do.


 

Analogue Sunshine TWTW # 78

Hello again, thanks for stopping by.

This week Summer seemed to arrive. Temperatures in the mid to high 20’s, cloudless sunny skies.

Time felt like it was well spent this week, whether it was work related or something else. Days felt like they were packed.

As the week wore on and it got hotter it became harder to sleep at night and I can’t say I was disappointed when things cooled down again on Friday.


You might remember that for my birthday I asked for some 35mm film for my old cameras, my friend Christian (@documentally), also gave me a couple of additional film cameras when we last met and I duly loaded up a roll. I exposed about half the roll and then things started to get a little sketchy with coronavirus and then lockdown happened, and I didn’t make much more progress with the rest of the roll. Now that lockdown has eased a little I managed to get out and finish up the rest of the roll. The processing “stores” are also open again now, and I packaged up the roll and sent it off. I got a call Saturday to say it had been received and that they’d get it in the post and on it’s way back to me after the bank holiday. So hopefully I’ll have some pictures to share next week.


It’s the 40th anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back. It’s a film that I remember going to see with my Dad, a trip in the school holidays on a day that it was pouring with rain. We bonded over the original Star Wars trilogy and again over the prequels, so they hold a special place for me. I rewatched Empire last Friday to revisit those times a bit, and because it’s a great movie.


Work’s been quiet this last week, after a flurry of activity. I’ve had a few things to follow up on, but most days have been short. With a bank holiday and in theory half-term holidays, I expect the week ahead to be even quieter.


I finished reading Grave Importance by Vivian Shaw and then read Roseanna by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö – the first in the Martin Beck series. I enjoyed both, although I did think that the Martin Beck story became a little convoluted towards the end, with the murderer identified it took a long time to bring the story to its conclusion.

I seem to have slipped into another Maigret novel – Maigret and the Pickpocket – since then, which I may well have finished by the time you read this.


What we inherit when we inherit books

Should you keep books in pristine condition?

12 classic novels coronavirus lockdown would have absolutely ruined


I bet Dominic Cummings didn’t abide by this advice either.


I heard from my local garage this week too, they have now managed to order the part for my car, and all being well they are going to fit it in the coming week (assuming that it turns up as planned). I’ve been managing so far, but have always felt that things were a little touch and go at times, so I’ll be glad to get the repair done.


Time on the allotment this week ranged from covering up the fruit bushes to prevent the birds getting to the ripening fruit and then planting out the brassicas that I’ve been growing from seed.

They also needed to be covered to prevent pigeons getting to them and also to keep the cabbage white butterflies from laying their eggs on them and their caterpillars then decimating the crop.

A lot of growing on the allotment or in any garden is about balancing between growing things that you can eat and preventing other things from eating them.


That’s all I have for this week. Stay safe.


Weeding & Seeding TWTW # 75

In another time, I’d have been at the dentist this past week, but as politicians and journalists seem to be keen to remind us the “new normal” means those sorts of appointments are not, at present, part of those arrangements. Admittedly I will not miss having to pay the bill.

Otherwise it’s been a quiet week, I’ve mostly been doing a little work, reading, watching the moon, listening to the rain fall and to owls hooting somewhere behind the house.


I had a trip to the allotment to do as much weeding as I could. Mostly this was on areas dug over the winter where the weeds have already started to regrow. They’re now ready for planting / sowing. I’ve also been sowing seeds which I hope are germinating in the potting shed as I type. Mostly squashes, pumpkins, tomatoes and a few other things. I’ve decided with the problems that I’ve had with sweetcorn over the last couple of years that I’m going to give sweetcorn a miss this year. As soon as the temperatures are warm enough these will be planted out.


I’ve had a couple of enquiries this week asking if I would be interested in a couple of contracts. Obviously the answer was yes, but at this stage these are only expression of interest so I’m not clear as to whether they will progress or not. It’s nice to know however that there is still some work out there.

The opportunity to continue giving garden talks via the internet rather than in person isn’t taking off. I can’t say I’m surprised given the average age of the regular audience it always looked like they would struggle with a video webinar approach. I’ve had a few enquiries but they’ve never progressed. It looks as though the remaining couple of in-person talks that I’m due to give will also be cancelled, and quite rightly. The “new normal” might well mean that talks in person don’t happen again for some time.


Forget homeschooling during the pandemic. Teach life skills instead.


Much debate as to whether the government should bailout Virgin airways, and Richard Branson’s forgetfulness about how another one of his companies once sued the NHS. There’s an interesting account of the latter here. Personally I don’t think we should be bailing out any airlines. We did it with FlyBe before the coronavirus outbreak and they proved unsustainable and I see that we have already bailed out EasyJet and promised them a reduction in “green” taxes. Perhaps the time is for any large bailouts for environmentally damaging industries should be directly linked to green recovery rather than given breaks to get around existing environmental legislation. Then again this is ultimately a Tory government and that seems unlikely that it would ever happen.


Michael Moore has produced a climate change “documentary”. I’ve watched it to save you the trouble, my synopsis: it’s a pile of 5h1t don’t waste your time, and perhaps YouTube should take it down.


I’ve been reading Spook Street by Mick Herron over the last few days. The fourth book in the Jackson Lamb series, it’s been pretty good so far but my progress has been quite slow. I also had some details come through for a book that I’d agreed to review, and that will be next. I’ll talk more about the latter in due course.



A couple of weeks ago we ran out of bird seed for the garden birds and I’ve been trying not to order things unnecessarily or at least to combine things so that we only have one delivery with several things in it every couple of weeks or so. One of these deliveries this week included bird seed, a 12 kilo bag which will hopefully last a while, although looking at how much the birds are getting through since we refilled the feeders, I might have misjudged how long it will last, I probably should add another bag to the next combined order.


We watched The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society  last night. I have to say I’ve been put off from watching this film due to it’s rather odd title for some time. However I have to say that I actually really enjoyed it. A gentle watch, which is always welcome at the moment and I’ll certainly give it another watch.


I’m out of here. Stay safe and well.



 

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.

Supermoon Flatbread TWTW # 72

It’s been a gloriously sunny week here, even the day they said it was going to be a bit gloomy was a good one. The slight perversity of having a bank holiday weekend when the weather is smashing but we can’t go out has not escaped the attention. Whatever happened to those old fashioned bank holidays were the weather was miserable and so was everyone stuck indoors? As I write this on a Sunday afternoon, it feels slightly dystopian being at home and all that I can hear are the sounds of police sirens and then more police sirens. I’m not sure what’s going on but I guess someone isn’t having a good day.


Although it is small I am very grateful for our back garden and very conscious that not everyone is as lucky as we are. I’ve been spending quite a bit of each afternoon sitting in the garden reading a book.

My reading this week has mostly been on my Kindle and has been Alan Bennett’s Keeping On Keeping On, the first part of the book is ten years worth (2005 – 2015) of his diaries and I think I’ve made it to about 2010 and am still going and have yet to get to the remainder of the book. I’m finding that I am able to concentrate on it which is something that I’ve recently struggled to do. Maybe the lockdown is just becoming the new norm and I’m adjusting to it?


I wrote last week about having been forced to go into town after failing to be able to do something online. Well I did achieve this and picked up some medication that the pharmacy has been holding for me. Town was strange. In places it was downright ghostly, in others it seemed that there were far more people out and about than there should have been. Going to the pharmacy was the weirdest part of all. It’s one of the only shops open in a large 1970’s built shopping centre (mall). The building management has opened a route up so that you can walk from either side of the shopping centre to the pharmacy and out again, but everywhere else is barricaded off. I wish I’d taken a photo of it but if you’ve ever watched any film that has a pandemic or other global emergency at it’s centre you already know what it looked like.

Speaking of which I’ve been watching season 9 of The Walking Dead this week (if you haven’t seen it yet but are going to, then best skip ahead as there are some small spoilers to follow). The series has been losing it’s way a bit for a while now, and with the deaths (both real and perceived) of major characters really seems to have lost itself completely. I still want to watch season 10 when it becomes free to view but I’m certainly not going to pay to watch it.


There was a Supermoon midweek, and I went out into the garden with my camera and a tripod and spent some time trying to get a good shot. It was a little cloudy and some of the shots were obscured a little by that but I got a few that were pleasing to me, which is what counts.

There are a couple more to come this year, but this one is where the moon is closest to the earth so the others won’t be quite as impressive. If you’re interested there are some more of other people’s photos here.


I’ve been making flatbreads this week – just flour, salt, water and oil, makes a perfect little wrap which you can stuff with whatever you like. I was using up some roast chicken and mixing it with some homemade bbq sauce, green peppers and white onion.

I’ve also been reading about sourdough revived from ancient Egypt (by the guy who invented the X-Box) and the sourdough library.

I also want to try this Spinach Dip if I can.


My social media abstinence for Lent has come to an end, but it’s the strangest thing. When Lent was over I reinstalled the apps on my phone and logged back in, but that’s all I’ve really done. I did look at Instagram for a bit and also Twitter, but I just felt a bit disconnected from the whole thing, like gazing into an abyss. I’m not sure what happens next, I guess I’ll just wait and see. I haven’t posted yet, and in previous times I lived in lists in Twitter to make it as locked down as possible, it might be I do a similar version but with lists that are even more locked down.

It does seem as if I didn’t shut down all of the autoposting I thought I had in my absence and this blog was still posting a link to twitter with every post. I didn’t realise and there’s no point in doing anything about it now, but there must be a setting buried somewhere that I didn’t find – because I thought I’d found them all.

If you’re interested I’m @tontowilliams on both Instagram and Twitter, if you don’t already follow me come and say “hi” who knows you might be the one to break my fast! Also it means that I can go back to posting links here again.


JRR Tolkein was right about the trees.


I used one of my exercise allowances to visit the allotment to plant out some broad beans and sow a few seeds. It’s amazing how quickly the plot went from being a soggy mess to rock hard and impenetrable to any hand tool known to man. I was trying to hammer some supports for my loganberries into the ground and had to water the ground to soften it first as the posts were just bouncing off. I feel a little like I’m on borrowed time with the allotment if the lockdown were to get any worse, and so have also been making space in the garden for some extra pots with veg in. Hopefully we’ll end up with a surplus that we can give away.


Well that’s about it for this week folks. I seem to have written far more that I’d intended to, or thought I had words to write. In these times of limited travel and adventure (yeah right when did I ever do those two things), that’s not bad.

I hope you’re all staying safe and well, and I’ll catch you later.

 

Robins Will Perch on Anything – TWTW #24

I was wondering whether or not this last week was going to be hectic or very quiet, and in the end it was somewhere towards the latter.
The rush proposal that I was asked to do has been put on hold, so having to gear up quickly and get cracking with that didn’t happen and it allowed me to get on with some other work.

I’ve had to do quite a bit of weeding on the allotment in the last week or so, and there has been the usual ever present robin keeping an eye on me and also catching the insects that are disturbed as I work. I tried to get some video footage of this and was only really partly successful, as you can see the robin was happy to have his photo taken, but on his own terms.


This article is a healthy reminder that all those e-books you have on your devices are not actually yours, you just own a licence to them. I’ve written before about the power of companies like Amazon who licence you an e-book and can pretty much do whatever they want if they feel you have broken their terms and conditions (whether you have done so intentionally or not). Now I love my kindle, but there are the obvious vulnerabilities or loosing or breaking it (and having the cost of a replacement), and the issues around DRM that these two articles raise. In the former case at least it looks as though customers will bet their money back, but what if this was a company that went into bankruptcy and there was no cash left to pay for the severs or refund their customers. Amazon is pretty big, but is it too big to fall?

I’ll still be using my kindle and buying books (licences for books) for it but I’ve never been completely happy about that relationship and I’m still not. I have my eyes wide open though.



I’ve been reading “Bloom” by Ruth Kassinger this week. It was sent to me by the publisher for a review, and if you want to read what I thought you can do so here. The short version is that it is an excellent book.

 

 

 

 

 


This week I’m mostly going to be working on a client project and trying to get some sensible thoughts into a report for them. Beyond that I doubt that I’ll be doing much else as my diary is relatively clear of other commitments.


 

 

Dough Monster – TWTW # 18

This week feels like it’s been full of lots of good things, it’s been fairly busy but in a good way, and yet I’ve had time to spend on some of the things that I love.

It’s also been blessed by being mostly warm and dry for the better part of the week, with a little rain at the weekend to help the garden and the allotment along. I can’t complain.


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It’s been a week of books this week. It started on Monday went I had to go into town to run a few errands and I popped into the library to look for a book that my other half wanted to read. They didn’t have it, but by chance I was looking to see if they had any Maigret books on their shelves – I always look, but am usually disappointed – and they had two. I’ve mentioned it before but Maigret has become a bit of a thing for me, and these two (Maigret, Lognon & the Gangsters and Maigret & the Reluctant Witnesses) didn’t take long for me to read. I had a reasonably long journey on Thursday and finished the second one on the train. I’ll take them back this week and see what else they have.

I also received a surprise from E&T Books – “The Seafarers” by Stephen Rutt. I’ve reviewed a few books for E&T and this one came in the post and I am about halfway through. I’ll post a separate review when I’ve finished it. Finally Nigel Slater’s latest cookbook “Greenfeast” came. This is actually a two part set, and this volume covers Spring and Summer. Autumn and Winter is out later this year. It’s a lovely book, although I haven’t had a chance to indulge properly yet!


On Tuesday morning I was walking the dogs along the creek when we chanced upon a Hedgehog. Haven’t seen one in a while, and a little surprising that it was out so late (they’re mostly nocturnal). Normally this isn’t a good sign, as it means they are staying out to find food, but this one seemed to healthy enough and was of a good size so I left it be.


The Marshes of America’s Space Programme


The Day I Tried To Love Ticks


The Bitter Truth About Starbucks Coffee


The Poetry of Painting: how to paint loss and life


On Puerto Rico’s ‘Forgotten Island,’ Tesla’s Busted Solar Panels Tell A Cautionary Tale



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Had a bit of a bread adventure at the weekend too. If you’ve been reading here for a while, you’ll know that I’ve been experimenting with sourdough bread for a while. Well last week we had a bit a of a lack lustre starter mix, that although it turn out a nice loaf, it didn’t really seem to rise all that much. Anyway, as is my habit, the leftover starter went into the fridge in a Kilner jar for the next time. On Saturday morning I noticed that the starter in the jar was rising at quite a fast rate (normally there is very little or no rise when it’s in the fridge). When I checked on it a little bit later in the day it had risen even more, and was into the lid of the Kilner jar.

I thought that I should take it out of the fridge and release some of the pressure from the jar, which I did and the jar open with a loud pop, and the starter started to ooze over the edge of the jar.

I decided to use some of this to make another loaf, so I measured up my ingredients and put the remaining starter back into the fridge (where it has been behaving itself since). I must have made a mistake with the measurements however, as the resulting dough was very wet. Too wet to do anything much with, so I had to add extra flour, which I did and kneaded in, and then put to one side for a final rise.

It worked out okay in the end, even though I’m still not sure how this happened I got a good loaf out of it.

Let The Sunshine In TWTW # 17

A short Bank Holiday week this week, it feels like its been a long week though for some reason. I spent the Bank Holiday on the allotment getting the brassicas in, and they seem to be  doing well. The allotment is coming together.

We’ve also had a break in the fine weather and a day that delivered some light rain, enough to refill waterbutts and make sure that my newly transplanted plants were watered.


A couple of weeks ago the catch on the car sunroof failed. It would lock shut, but wouldn’t stay open. I went to the garage to see how much a replacement would be, and they quoted me over £100. I took a pass on a new one, hoping that I could find a secondhand one, or one from a scrapyard. After a bit of searching this week, I found someone selling on e-bay. A couple of clicks later it was mine, and was delivered the next day. It took about 5 minutes to take off the old catch and fit the new one. Rarely have I known, something happen so smoothly. The cost £20. Bargain!

Just in time for some sunshine too!


Will You Choose Alive Time or Dead Time?


I read “Dark State” by Charles Stross this week, and “Maigret’s Anger” by Georges Simenon, I enjoyed both, but I have to say the Maigret novels are such an easy read. The author used to bang out them in about a week, and they take just an evening to read as most are only around 150 pages.

TWTW # 12 Welcome To British Summer Time

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The clocks changed last weekend, and my body & mind have been trying to catch up all week, and it’s been a pretty busy week!

On Monday evening I was giving a talk to Harwell Gardening Club. The talk was entitled An Allotment Year, but as Monday was also April Fools Day, I couldn’t resist talking a little about some of the “gardening” April Fools that there have been. These included Waitrose’s Pinanas; Tesco’s whistling carrots (so you can tell when they’re cooked); who could forget the great Panorama spaghetti farming story; and finally Herr Moler’s phosphorescent sunflowers so that you can read in the garden at nighttime.

I think the talk went well, and there was an invitation to come back another time, so a good evening was had by all.


I’ve also been mostly working on the delivery of the proposal accepted by one of my clients last week. It’s involved a lot of research, and I’ve started writing the main report. That will continue this week, and I hope to deliver the draft to the client next week.

I’ve had a couple of other meetings so it’s been a pretty busy working week all in all.


Although we are officially on Summer Time, it seems the weather has dropped several degrees in temperature. Gone are the shorts of last week and I’m back in jeans again. This will probably be short-lived (sorry for the pun), as it was getting warmer again yesterday.


The weather has meant that other than harvesting purple sprouting broccoli and leeks, I’ve not done very much on the allotment. Instead I’ve been busy transplanting broccoli and cauliflower seedlings into bigger pots, and sowing some sweet peas and a few other flowering annuals for hanging baskets and pots.


It’s possible that we might soon be able to see White Tailed Eagles not very far away from here. A licence has been granted for their reintroduction, and although that’s only a step in the process it’s moving in the right direction for a reintroduction in due course, possibly as soon as this summer. You can read more about it here.


The clocks changing has really mucked up my sleeping patterns, and with a busy week I’ve been a little bit too tired to read when I finally end up in bed. I’ve been dipping into Under The Rock by Benjamin Myers again, which although I read this last year, is coming out in paperback in a couple of weeks time and the publishers have asked me if I’d re-review it. They’ve also given me a copy of the paperback to give away here when that review is published, so if you’re interested watch this space (if you really don’t want to miss your chance then you can subscribe to posts in the box on the right hand menu – you can unsubscribe at any time, and I don’t give your details to anyone else or spam you with anything other than posts from this blog, one post equals one email).


That’s it for this week. Things are a little quieter this week, my main focus needs to be on my clients report. The sooner that’s delivered, the sooner I can have a bit of fun!