hazardwarning https://hazardwarning.me.uk Just me and my thoughts Thu, 23 May 2019 22:14:25 +0000 EN https://hazardwarning.me.uk/avatars/vanessa.jpg hazardwarning https://hazardwarning.me.uk Clean Just me and my thoughts hourly 1 Streams (19E210) Testing out the new camera https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2019/05/19/testing-out-the-new-camera Sun, 19 May 2019 14:42:00 +0000 Vanessa b94a6ccb-d0b8-f585-9b3e-b3952d293841 More photos taken with my new Fuji X-T30. Very impressed with its capabilities. All these are with the XF 35mm f2.0 lens.

Today I tried out the Velvia film setting, followed by the black and white + "grainy" effect. Doesn't look all that grainy to me, but I like the results.

Back home to some weeding, planting out of a new rose bush and a spot of watering - although the sky decided to help with that. In the back garden I spotted that my much-neglected clematis has come good again, although it still seems to prefer to twine its way through the cotinus, rather than go up the trellis I try to convince it to use. Nature at its best, bright green leaves, big purple flowers, contrasting with the dark smoky red of the bush.

All in all, a pretty decent Sunday.

dscf0062

dscf0069

dscf0067

dscf0086

]]>
Yes
Exbury Gardens https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2019/05/15/exbury-gardens Wed, 15 May 2019 18:25:00 +0000 Vanessa 067122a5-b02e-80fd-d0a1-6a75f73f3f35 Had an amazing day out at Exbury Gardens today. Although not far from me, I had never visited before. This is the best time of year to see it, as long as you like rhododendrons and azaleas, as the place is full of them. It was owned by the de Rothschild family, who cross-bred a lot of varieties over the years - this year the gardens celebrate their centenary as functioning gardens (rather than wild woodland).

It was almost impossible to capture the splendour of the flowers in photographs, but, of course, I tried…

img_2824

p1010996

p1020055

Eventually I deployed the macro mode for some close-ups:-

p1020059

p1020071

Although I went to see the rhododendrons, they also had what must be the most spectacular wisteria I have ever seen, which grew over a frame to create a wisteria house, almost. Simply breathtaking.

p1020065

p1020066

p1020067

]]>
Yes
Royal Mail Track and Trace https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2019/02/14/royal-mail-track-and-trace Thu, 14 Feb 2019 10:08:00 +0000 Vanessa 96312530-2867-18c0-ea97-a01403331f29 Excellent service, very handy to know when one can expect delivery of an item - except it's not. Not handy at all, not any more.

Go to website, enter tracking number. On mobile Safari and Chrome, nothing happens. Most likely because of pop-up blockers, or some ad detection software I have; doesn't everyone, unless seeing ads is your thing, Off to my Opera browser, enter tracking number and, yaay, little sodding pictures appear. Captcha loads, asking me to identify traffic lights. OK, not too difficult, despite the fact that the traffic lights seem to be in mid-air, not where I'm used to seeing them. Sometimes it asks for "crosswalks". I assume they mean the white stripes on a road. Crosswalks, not a British thing. Thank you, Google. Today it was "buses". Not a red double decker to be seen. Some yellow things, some coaches (I think), but nothing particularly bus-like. Round and round we go, with more and more pictures. Fire hydrants - lumpy things at the edge of roads, I presume.

Yes, I'm being flippant, as I have been sufficiently exposed to US culture that I am aware of these things. (i still find a lot of the pictures impossible to decipher, as they are such poor quality).

I logged into my Royal Mail account, hoping that might prove I'm not a flippin' robot. Whether by chance, or by design, the Captcha was easier and I got it right first time. To be met with a message telling me that the "system" can't give any information about my item at the moment.

I expect that I will sail through Captcha and be able to discover the whereabouts of my item at some point - most likely after it has been delivered.

]]>
Yes
Pebble Stationery Co Tomoe River Pocket Notebook https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2019/02/07/pebble-stationery-co-tomoe-river-pocket-notebook Thu, 07 Feb 2019 11:03:00 +0000 Vanessa 74880c7a-2d94-1736-ec90-0e4367a4cd3e Firstly, I haven't had these notebooks for very long and started my first one at the end of January, so this is very much an initial impressions post.

I spotted these on the Instagram feed for Nero's Notes, my notebook supplier of choice, as I am in the UK.

Nero's has a great blog post in which they get to know the owners of Pebble Stationery Co, worth reading.

As soon as they were announced I put in my pre-order for a couple of packs.

As ever, the notebooks arrived quickly (I got lucky, putting my order in just as they arrived in stock) and beautifully packaged. I was just coming to the end of my previous notebook, so a Pebble went straight into my leather cover.

The notebook

0383062D-7008-40D9-A2C1-56540E39AAF1.jpeg

The cover is a discreet-looking pale grey, textured a bit like linen. The inside cover is a pale duck-egg blue and has the usual name, contact, dates and content sections. The inside back cover has some information about the company, including the fact that for each pack of premium notebooks sold they will donate pencils to children in need, to help their creativity and learning. A nice touch. At the bottom there is information about the notebook: 52gsm Tomoe River paper, 80 pages, in a 4mm dot grid.

The pages are stitched rather than stapled. The stitches are really very small and nothing shows on the outside of the cover, so I wonder if they are stitched to an inner cover which is then bound to the grey outer. My eyesight isn't good enough to figure this out - not in the gloom of winter, that's for sure! Suffice to say these are well made.

01A93D57-1B37-4AC5-844E-4024C02B7C6D.jpeg

The price at the moment for a two-pack is £11.50, just a bit less than a three-pack of Field Notes special editions, or a few quid more than a three-pack of standard Field Notes. As these come from Australia, I imagine international prices will vary.

As I said, it's early days for me with these notebooks. Despite keeping my pocket notebook in a leather cover, I have separated some Field Notes from their covers before finishing the book. It can take me a couple of months to get through a standard pocket notebook, so a notebook with a lot more pages runs the risk of becoming even more battered, as it is likely to be in my pocket for longer. That said, there's a much greater desire to write things down on such lovely paper. It handles all kinds of pen, though pencil and ballpoint will crinkle the paper because of the pressure. Not that I'm particularly bothered by that, but generally a brass Kaweco Sport rollerball lives with my pocket notebook. It is nice to be able to use my fountain pens in it, too.

]]>
Yes
A rainy trip to Norway https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2018/09/26/a-rainy-trip-to-norway Wed, 26 Sep 2018 20:48:00 +0000 Vanessa 19568b79-ee0d-6410-457b-a07688b88c35 My first ever cruise, and first holiday in a very long time. Breathtaking, despite the rain.

First stop was Stavanger, where I took a trip to Sør-Hidle to see the Flor og Fjære gardens. Tropical gardens on the west coast of Norway. Quite a feat - and quite a sight!

Early morning arrival in Stavanger.

Good morning Stavanger.jpeg

Some photos from the tropical gardens.

Flor og Fjaere.JPG

Flor og Fjaere 2.JPG

Flor og Fjaere 3.JPG

Hidle 1.JPG

The afternoon was spent wandering round Stavanger, unfortunately getting wetter and wetter. It's a lovely place, though.

After Stavanger we sailed up to Flåm, arriving there in the early morning. As this was my first trip to the Norwegian fjords, I got up early, to see what the views were like. Misty and a bit wet - not as wet as later in the day. Sadly for my cameras there were no picturesque sunrises and sunsets to be had.

Aurlandsfjord.JPG

Early morning.JPG

I took a full day trip in Flåm, which involved the railway trip, plus a coach tour to Voss, via the very steep and twisty Stalheimskleiva - complete with fallen rocks at the apex of one of the hairpins, which our intrepid coach driver managed to haul to the side of the road. It rained, a lot, but that just made the waterfalls we saw even more spectacular. First was a stop to look at Tvindefossen:-

Tvindefossen.jpeg

Followed by a stop during the train journey from Myrdal to Flåm to admire Kjossfossen:-

Kjossfossen.jpeg

Prior to picking up the Flåmsbana, we had taken a train from Voss to Myrdal, having had a traditional Norwegian buffet lunch in Voss.

I did manage to get a few shots of the area from inside the coach and train - the advantage of having a long zoom.

Flam valley.JPG

The next day saw us arrive in Olden in the morning. I enjoyed every day and every excursion, but I think this was the one that surprised me most; I wasn't sure what to expect of Olden, but I found the surrounding area to be so very beautiful. I was quite taken with Stryn and some of the scenery we saw during our trip was just breathtaking.

Olden.jpeg

Jostedalsbreen Glacier National Park:-

Jostedalsbreen Glacier National Park.jpeg

Oppstrynsvatnet:-

Lake.JPG

After a stop at the national park for pancakes and coffee, we made our way back down the valley, making a slight detour to the tiny town of Hjelle, which looked very much like a place one could stay in for a while and simply soak up the scenery.

Hjelledalen:-

Hjelledalen.jpeg

My final stop in Norway was Bergen, a town I would have liked to spend more time in, but after a week of getting soaked every time I set foot outside, I wasn't really in the mood to walk round the town. I would like to go back there, though. I had booked a trip out to Troldhaugen, to see Edvard Grieg's summer house and the place where he wrote a lot of his music. It was a superb excursion, which enabled us to see a decent amount of Bergen from the warm and dry coach. We visited the museum at Troldhaugen, had a tour of Grieg's house and finished with a piano recital in the concert hall built there in 1985. The hall has a glass end wall, so the view the audience has while listening to the music is just amazing. The hall was built with chamber music in mind and has a crystal clear acoustic. It was very moving to hear Grieg's music while looking out at the views he saw when writing it.

The view from Troldhaugen:-

Bergen.jpeg

The Troldsalen:-

Troldsalen.jpg

]]>
Yes
Cheerio http://www.metrolyrics.com/cheerio-lyrics-jethro-tull.html Thu, 09 Aug 2018 13:08:08 +0000 Vanessa 429b63a6-9bd5-11e8-8d19-54ee758049c3 Having a Tull day. Just reached my favourite album, with some of my all-time favourite songs.

]]>
Yes
One Year On https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2018/08/03/one-year-on Fri, 03 Aug 2018 21:04:00 +0000 Vanessa 12b96981-a836-11cf-829e-8f7c7973f2ea As I type this, 52 weeks and about 90 minutes ago my father passed away after a relatively short and futile battle with lung cancer. Although it wasn't really much of a battle, to be honest: by the time he got a diagnosis, it was terminal and he was given weeks or months. He stuck around for about eight months, and, luckily, was only really ill for about the last month. Even more luckily he was in virtually no pain. I was there when he died; my phone had just beeped with a text from my cousin, however, I decided a trip to the bathroom seemed more urgent than responding. I walked past my Dad's hospital bed, in the lounge of the bungalow he had shared with my mother up until her death, just under three years before his. I paused to hold his hand and say some things to him that I needed to say. As I held his hand and kissed it, he didn't take the next breath. I have never been with anyone at the moment of their death; my mother died unexpectedly, in hospital, early in the morning, so all we knew about that was the Phone Call. It seemed very odd that someone breathes and then stops. Why not one more breath? And maybe another? What changed (I don't wish to know).

Of course, despite knowing this was coming, and suspecting it would be that day (my brother had returned home to his family that morning and I had said to him I didn't think he would see his father alive again), it was still such a shock. I rang my cousin and she knew, simply from the fact I had rung and not texted. She helped talk me through the things I had to do - which I knew, as Dad's nurses had taken me through everything, but your mind just goes blank. So blank. You have your breath taken away, it feels like a physical punch in the gut. I used to wonder why people would collapse in the floor with grief. Now I know. Although, I didn't do that when I heard about Mum - I think I was too busy organising everyone to do so. Sure, I spent a long time on the phone to my best friend later that day, and for several days after, not talking, just sobbing. I didn't exactly collapse to the floor this time, but I felt very weak and unsteady.

So here I am a year later, feeling pretty rubbish, if I'm honest. But not in quite the same way as I was this time last year. A good friend said to me, not long after my Mum had died that you don't get over it, you just live differently and adapt. Sadly, that same friend died 364 days after my Mum, but I'll never forget her words to me. I dread August, I hated the end of it, with the anniversary of losing my Mum (who was probably also my best friend) and now I hate the start of it, as it's the anniversary of my Dad's death. Also, after trying to get in touch with my Mum's cousin to let her know about Dad, I had a call from her daughter just a week after Dad's death saying that her Mum had died - exactly a week after Dad. Did I say I hate August? I know these things are what we rationally expect; that our parents will die before we do and, hopefully, when we ourselves are adults. That isn't always the case. My mother was fourteen when her father died. My father was nine days old when his mother died. Despite all the tears, the visceral pain and black moods, I know that I am lucky to have had such lovely parents to miss so much.

Some days I will tell you it doesn't seem to get easier and that I could do without having to get out of bed. I have been on medication for depression since not long after my Mum died and I know that helped me cope with the last couple of years. I am lucky to work from home, which meant I was able to stay at Dad's and let him die at home, as he wished - although staying alive would have been his preference. Other days I occasionally forget. That's the way of things, along with the ensuing guilt at having forgotten. As Edna St Vincent Millay says in her oft-quoted poem "Time Does Not Bring Relief":-

There are a hundred places where I fearTo go,—so with his memory they brim.And entering with relief some quiet placeWhere never fell his foot or shone his faceI say, "There is no memory of him here!"And so stand stricken, so remembering him."

And so, I find myself writing this, trying to make sense of the last few years, feeling glum, but maybe a little bit less so than I did.

MumDad.jpg

]]>
Yes
July books https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2018/07/31/july-books Tue, 31 Jul 2018 19:28:00 +0000 Vanessa ce5afa51-5d8d-5d41-836b-9aceef45d5fa Started 28 June 2018Finished 10 July 2018

Possibly the best of the Eden House Mysteries, but that may simply be because I like the subject matter. An excellent tale and a very pleasant read. I find the main characters credible and good company. Again set in Yorkshire, this sees Adam and his fiancée, Eve, get caught up in another murder mystery which has plenty of twists.

The Time Traveller's Guide to Mediaeval Englandby Ian MortimerNarrated by Jonathan Keeble

Started 5 July 2018Finished 9 July 2018

These books go into some detail about the minutiae of daily life in the relevant period. Sometimes a little dry, but generally interesting and they give a good picture of "real life" - as best the historians can reconstruct. And yes, the title uses "medieval", but I prefer the other spelling.

The Ship of Bridesby Jojo MoyesNarrated by Nicolette McKenzie

Started 9 July 2018Finished 13 July 2018

I thoroughly enjoyed this audiobook, absolutely loved it. It tells the tale of some Australian war brides who were taken to England, and their husbands, on an elderly aircraft carrier. By the end of the story I had forgotten how it started, so engaged with the lives of the "brides" I had become. This is the first book by Jojo Moyes that I have read/listened to and now she's on my list. The characters were very well drawn, with their faults and foibles, and the narration was superb, really bringing the characters to life and drawing the listener in to the story. I am already missing the people I got to know.

The Venetian Gameby Philip Gwynne Jones

Started 10 July 2018Finished 15 July 2018

I enjoyed this, although it felt a little inconsequential. I wasn't that engaged with the thriller plot, but I enjoyed the main characters. I will look at the next in the series, I expect. Venice played a starring role in the book, and, although I have only visited it once, it was interesting to see it through the eyes of a resident.

A Tangled Mercyby Joy Jordan-Lake

Started 15 July 2018Finished 27 July 2018.

This novel is amazing. I really wasn't sure what to expect and had no idea that it was based on real events. It covers two periods of history: 1822, when, in Charleston there was a slave revolt; and 2015, when a doctoral student relocates to Charleston to investigate the history of the revolt. The investigation was also prompted by some documents her late mother had left. During the course of the novel the two stories come together and develop. I have to say I didn't anticipate the final explanation almost until it arrived. Looking back there were clues but the mystery was perfectly paced and satisfyingly resolved. Not an easy subject and some fairly harrowing chapters, but overall I enjoyed reading it and I learnt a lot. Ten days later, I'm still thinking about some of the issues raised.

The Despatcherby John ScalziNarrated by Zachary Quinto

Started 16 July 2018Finished 18 July 2018

Only a short audiobook - a couple of hours. Thoroughly enjoyed it though. Narration was excellent, but then Zachary Quinto has a very pleasant speaking voice. Thought-provoking storyline and I hope there are more stories around this subject to come. I have some Scalzi in my Kindle queue, so this was a nice introduction to his writing.

Draculaby Bram StokerNarrated by Alan Cumming, Tim Curry and others

I have read Dracula before and I was surprised to find I enjoyed it. It made a change to read the original, having watched a load of Dracula films over the years (and my favourite is still "The Fearless Vampire Killers", although it was called "Dance of the Vampires" when I first saw it!). It's been a while since I read it, so I thought an audiobook version with a cast would be fun. It was, I enjoyed listening to it as much as I did reading it. I had hoped for a bit more of Tim Curry, but Alan Cumming and Simon Vance did a grand job. Yes, it's stylised, but that's just how the book is. This version is definitely worth a listen though.

Started 19 July 2018Finished 22 July 2018

The Singularity Trap.by Dennis E TaylorNarrated by Ray Porter.

Started 29 July 2018Finished 31 July 2018

I loved the Bobiverse Trilogy from this author, so was more than happy to give this one a go. It wasn't as entertaining as the Bob books, but still had some laugh out loud moments. To start with, I was unsure where the story would be going; it starts with the tale of a guy who signs on to an asteroid mining ship, and somehow gets infected when a strange artefact is discovered. Gradually he is turned into metal. I did wonder if this was the whole story, and what else could possibly fill the rest of the book. I needn't have worried, as I pretty soon became engrossed. The concept isn't as out-there as in the Bob books, although it certainly is thought-provoking, revealing some of the less laudable aspects of human-kind. Dennis E Taylor is definitely on my must-read list and Ray Porter is firmly on my listen-to list. He brings these books to life really well.

In between audiobooks and text books, I have been listening to some of the Audible free series: this month it has been "Pitch" and "Real Crime". The former is about music and its influence on people, the latter is a British podcast series about some of the most notable crimes in recent times. I remembered most of them, but they were still interesting and well presented.

I have also been working my way through my digital copy of the sci-fi magazine "Analog".

]]>
Yes
Day Trip to Bath https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2018/07/31/day-trip-to-bath Tue, 31 Jul 2018 19:28:00 +0000 Vanessa f31d7cfd-1f4c-ed24-8431-2193a1f0ae60 Admittedly, I'm a little late with this post, as I went to Bath at the end of June.

With three friends I had booked on a coach day trip through a local firm. We had a pretty civilised departure at 9am (unlike a trip we have booked to go to a craft show in London, when our departure time is around 7am). It was at the start of our recent very hot spell and I was concerned about that, but the coach had very good air-conditioning, so spending time on there was preferable to sweltering elsewhere.

Traffic was light and we arrived in Bath a little early, which was great. I was armed with sunscreen, hat and layers of linen clothing. We located the tourist information centre, after a slight detour into the Radley shop, as there was a sale on. The Radley fans bought nothing, whereas I bought a canvas tote and a purse.

We bought a ticket for the tourist open-top bus tours. They aren't cheap, but when time is limited and it's very hot, the top deck of a bus has a breeze and it's a great way to see the city. We did the city tour first, followed by one which went round the outskirts. Plenty of opportunity for photographs, although that wasn't always easy when the bus was moving. I took my Panasonic TZ70 small camera, but it took some decent pics.

P1000841.JPG

There was an exhibition in Bath, called Minerva Owls, wherein various owl sculptures were dotted around the city. We saw a few of them, but, again, time was limited.

P1000904.JPG

P1000941.JPG

P1000950.JPG

Between the bus tours, we found time for the somewhat obligatory shots of Poultney Bridge, although a boat that seemed to have got stuck below the weir would not get out of shot. I'm sure it wasn't deliberate…

P1000897.JPG

P1000899.JPG

We found a lovely little café, the Courtyard Café, near Sally Lunn's, where we stopped for some lunch. As none of us were driving, we were all able to have a couple of glasses of wine, whih was most pleasant.

I didn't get time to go into the abbey, but walked round the outside. Next time…

P1000952.JPG

All too soon it was time to return to the coach and make our way home. For £22 it was a bargain, compared with being faced with driving, parking, driving home again - and no wine!

Bath has some lovely buildings - and superb chimneys.

P1000909.JPG

P1000875.JPG

]]>
Yes
June Books https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2018/07/08/june-books Sun, 08 Jul 2018 20:53:00 +0000 Vanessa 26957696-e448-860d-e606-83a6d89e07a1 Started 1 June 2018.Finished 5 June 2018

I picked up this audiobook on offer, so figured it wasn't exactly expensive! I'd seen the book elsewhere and had been tempted to read it - I think it may have been one of the Kindle First selections one month, when I went for a different one. A definite change of pace and subject from Earthcore, which was quite welcome!I enjoyed the book and liked the narration very much. That said, it wasn't quite what I was expecting. Interesting to see descriptions of the centuries as though through the eyes of someone from the past, and the supporting characters were often entertaining, but really it was a catalogue of social and domestic changes that had taken place. Not exactly a thrilling plot-line, rather gently interesting.

The Dark WebBy Geoff White & Bernard AchampongNarrated by Geoff White

Started 5 June 2018Finished 6 June 2018

Not so much an audiobook, this is an Audible presentation/documentary in 10 short chapters. Also, it's free to subscribers. I found it sufficiently interesting to finish the episodes, although it probably didn't impart much in the way of new information. It did, however, flesh out some of the things I already knew, so definitely worth listening to.

West Cork

Started 7 June 2018Finished 9 June 2018

This is another Audible freebie, about a murder that took place in 1996 in western Ireland. As it happens, the day I started it, I had a call from my brother and I happened to mention that I was listening to this, knowing that he and his family were regular visitors to the area, as his wife's family come from round there. Turns out he was aware of the story and is very familiar with a lot of the places. He's seen the house where the victim lived. I'm only a few episodes in, but the pace is lovely, the story-telling is gently understated - as much as telling the tale of a murder can be. I don't believe the murder has been solved, so I'm interested to see the journey this takes me on. Intruiging - and an unfinished tale, as the main (only) suspect has been formally accused of murder in France, although he is unlikely to be extradited. Do I believe he is guilty? No, but I'm not convinced of his innocence, either. Worth listening to.

The Memory of Treesby F G CottamNarrated by David Rintoul

Started 10 June 2018Finished 11 June 2018

I don't think this was as scary as I had expected it to be, although it was nicely atmospheric. A very rich bloke hires a tree expert to reforest his land. All good, until strange things start happening. It had its tense moments and overall I enjoyed it. David Rintoul as the narrator helped; always good and a voice I love.

A Little History of Philosophyby Nigel WarburtonNarrated by Kris Dyer

Started 11 June 2018Finished 13 June 2018

This was interesting and I know more about philosophy than I did before starting it. It still doesn't exactly excite me, although some of the concepts and arguments were interesting. The book was well read and clearly written, but about as much philosophy as I ever want to deal with.

Churchillby Roy JenkinsNarrated by Robert Whitfield (Simon Vance)

Started 14 June 2018Finished 25 June 2018

Fascinating, although rather peppered with high-brow language, which, for me, detracted from the story. I have the paperback copy of this book, but the print is a bit small and I found it easier to listen to than to read.

The Haunted Lady (Eden House 5)by Bill Kitson

Started 6 June 2018Finished 18 June 2018

I like this series of books; they are well written and have entertaining main characters. Somehow I managed to read the fifth book before the fourth, but it doesn't really matter.

The Thinnest AirBy Minka Kent

Started 18 June 2018Finished 28 June 2018

This was a Kindle First freebie and I enjoyed it. A woman goes missing and her sister starts to dig into her life. Of course, all is not what it appeared to be. No masterpiece, but an entertaining read which did keep me guessing for a while.

Sleeper's CastleBy Barbara ErskineNarrated by Charlotte Strevens

Started 26 June 2018Finished 30 June 2018

I usually enjoy Barbara Erskine books and this was no exception. Not my favourite (which is "Lady of Hay"), but it was well read and an enjoyable audiobook.

]]>
Yes
It's the weekend! https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2018/06/08/its-the-weekend Fri, 08 Jun 2018 22:54:00 +0000 Vanessa d9d2a854-151a-c238-7464-333d2dc83884 It seems to have been a very long and arduous week, which is par for the course of late. I made a visit to one of our offices midweek, which I enjoyed. It was worth my time, although the journey there and back, plus being unaccustomed to the office setting, has left me really rather tired. I used to travel longer than this every weekday - at a time when I was quite unwell. I couldn't do it now - clearly I am "getting older" as my team like to remind me. I have had two rehearsals this week, which have added to my fatigue, particularly when I've had to dash out of the door having only just closed the laptop for the night.

Tomorrow is the choral society's summer concert and I'm a little apprehensive. I feel under-prepared and not confident in some of the pieces. Certainly in the major work we are doing; excerpts from Vivaldi's Gloria. Such is the lot of an accompanist. This is a piano reduction of the orchestral score and, as is the way with Baroque music, there's a lot of twiddly bits and no little amount of contrapuntal writing. I love it, but my fingers don't. I can play it, but I have struggled to become familiar enough with my part to be able to forget about it and concentrate on the choir and the conductor. On occasion I've almost suffered from note-blindness, where I've looked at the music and it's meant nothing to me. Slightly disconcerting, but I reckon it's a result of tiredness rather than anything else. Forgetting how to read music could be a tad awkward for someone who relies heavily on her sight-reading skills! I'm sure we'll get through it; the adrenaline will kick in and we'll rise to the occasion. As a reward, the concert ends with one of my absolute favourite pieces: Bridge over Troubled Water. It's a very moving way to end and has been well-received before.

It's the society's 30th anniversary this year, so this concert is going to be fairly light-hearted and very much a celebration of 30 years of singing and raising money for charity. Since I've been a member, the concerts we give have raised over £1000 a year for local charities. It feels good to be able to give back to the community. I spent a long time studying music and, as I didn't become a professional, it's very rewarding to be using my (somewhat diminished) skills at last. I love accompanying people, so I've found my niche. Some members have been with the choir for the full 30 years, which is impressive. I am lucky enough to have moved to a small rural town which has a very strong community and a flourishing music scene. Our concerts are well supported by the community. I was astounded a couple of years ago when we received a standing ovation for an excerpt we did from Handel's Messiah. Granted, I think we did a good job with it, but that was most unexpected and very gratifying. Here's hoping tomorrow night comes close!

]]>
Yes
Blooming lovely https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2018/06/02/blooming-lovely Sat, 02 Jun 2018 14:04:00 +0000 Vanessa 845996f3-ecfb-ff1c-0683-51ae12472faf I have been busy today: mowed my lawns and also one at the parents' bungalow. I was pleased to see my Dad's favourite poppies in bloom again, although the feelings were tinged with sadness that he's no longer here to see them and also that the bungalow sale is progressing, so I won't be able to see them for much longer. I did pick off a seed pod, so maybe I'll be able to get some growing in my garden. I love poppies, which is just as well, given I have one tattooed on my shoulder.

44CE051D-DFD3-4B74-B1B7-26CD1537A40F.jpeg

My garden is doing remarkably well considering how neglected it was last year. The roses are in bloom, bless them: always reliable.

8508EE61-A800-45FC-841E-B240FC0562CF.jpeg 5F694F64-5B75-4930-9C69-220E2480F0E2.jpeg 67773803-C0D7-4B16-BF7C-883DFABF8208.jpeg

The Cotinus (smoke bush) has grown a lot, despite being fairly savagely trimmed back, as were the penstemons, but then they are usually pretty resilient.

A149F48E-1054-48E8-A202-51BE9E0EF753.jpeg

Whilst it's now too hot and I'm too tired for any more gardening, today has encouraged me to believe that I can get the garden back on track. Still got a lot of work to do on the front garden border, but I'm making progress.

]]>
Yes
May books https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2018/06/01/may-books Fri, 01 Jun 2018 19:12:00 +0000 Vanessa 211ebf4e-f2db-791e-b3cc-521161649489 Started 1 May 2018Finished 9 May 2018

Thoroughly enjoyed this book, although the ending seemed a little sudden. Interesting central topic; that buildings might retain a record of all sounds ever created within their walls. I enjoyed the relationship between the doctor and her autistic patient, as well as the overall plot.

The Forgotten Onesby Steena Holmes

Started 9 May 2018Finished 14 May 2018

Rather to my surprise I enjoyed this book. I was deterred as soon as I realised a main character was an elderly man with terminal cancer. A bit too close to home and it did upset me at times. Aside from that, the book was interesting, although I wasn't quite sure the secret was as terrible as it was made out to be. I was also a little unsure of the ending, but overall I enjoyed it.

The Kaiser's Goldby Bill Kitson

Started 18 May 2018.Finished 25 May 2018

I had forgotten about these books, written by a friend of a friend. This is the second in the Eden House series and it was most enjoyable. Not too demanding, but no less entertaining for that - and well-written. Kept me guessing about whodunnit.

Earthcoreby Scott SiglerNarrated by Ray Porter

Started 21 May 2018Finished 1 June

Thoroughly enjoyed this, if enjoy is the right word. Scary, gruesome and exhausting, with rather more foul language than I'd like, it was quite a roller coaster ride. It starts with a discovery of a vein of platinum, with a company who wants to mine that find. However, it's very deep underground and as they dig down, well, they meet something unexpected. I have to say I didn't always know the direction this book was taking, which makes a change. As a result I found it fascinating and very enjoyable. I have read some reviews which suggested it would make a good film and I tend to agree.As ever, Ray Porter is a great narrator. I'm always happy to see his name against an audiobook.

I should also confess to having abandoned "As Good as True" by Cheryl Reid. It started out with unrelenting misery and I guess I simply wasn't in the mood for it. At the moment I'm looking for escapism, but I may go back to it one day.

]]>
Yes
Rievaulx Terrace and Abbey https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2018/05/12/rievaulx-terrace-and-abbey Sat, 12 May 2018 18:24:00 +0000 Vanessa 9aa2f97b-0bb8-253a-fcaf-f4880d50bf3d On my last visit to Yorkshire I promised myself a trip out to Rievaulx. I have been there before, but I don't recall actually going round the Abbey itself, so decided this was something I should do. As it happens, my friend received information on a wildflower walk which was taking place during this week, so booked us on to that.

We headed off to Rievaulx Terrace, which is a National Trust property (both members, so free entry) and had a look round before the walk started. Along the terrace there are around 12 viewpoints, where a gap has been created in the trees to provide a view across the valley and down onto Rievaulx Abbey.IMGP4278.JPG

IMGP4196.JPG

We joined the walk at 1.30pm and it took around 90 minutes. We were taken down a central path through the woodland, not the usual tourist path. As a result we were sandwiched between modern planting and woodland planting created when the terrace was developed, in the 18th century. The chaps running the walk were very interesting, pointing out a variety of wildflowers. Among the ones we saw were ramsons, English bluebells, Helleborus viridis, a rather rare, green hellebore, an early-flowering orchid, forget-me-nots, the delightful adoxa moschatellina (town hall clock flower), cowslips, primroses and many more.

IMGP4210.JPG

Orchis mascula - early purple orchid.

What was particularly interesting was the discussion around native planting and using non-native plants to restore the gardens, because they were plants either used in the 18th century, or by the Victorians at a later date. We learnt about various conservation techniques and decisions that were being made regarding viewpoints over the valley - not least the fact that they don't believe the trees were originally there; that the terrace was probably originally designed as a kind of infinity terrace, sloping away out of sight to provide uninterrupted views of Rievaulx. It was also likely designed not as a promenade, but to be seen from a carriage. Unfortunately, the trees have to stay, as they cannot now be removed.

At either end of the terrace is a temple: one Ionic, which is open at times, the other Doric, which is closed. We later learned that some of the decorative tiling from the Abbey had been used on the floor of the Doric temple.

IMGP4291.JPGIonic Temple

IMGP4267.JPGDoric Temple

After the walk finished, we decided to head down to Rievaulx Abbey itself. This is owned by English Heritage, but I am a member, so free entry there as well. After a stop for some tea and cake we headed off to walk round the Abbey ruins. The weather was superb, almost too bright, as it made photography tricky, trying to expose the stonework correctly without bleaching out the sky. My camera has built-in HDR, but it's not fantastic. My iPhone, however, made pretty good work of applying HDR to the scenery, so my best photos are a mix of phone and DSLR.

IMGP4298.JPG

IMGP4305.JPG

IMGP4308.JPG

In this photo you can clearly see the older, 12th century stonework in the foreground contrasting with the later 13th century stonework of the presbytery in the background.

The Abbey was both added to and reduced over time, as lay brothers left the monastery, leaving only the Cistercian monks in residence. It was sacked by the Scots in the 1320s and, of course, Henry VIII later put an end to a vast number of churches and monasteries in England, of which Rievaulx was one.

However, the ruins here are extensive and quite, quite beautiful.

IMGP4361.JPG

20180510_155551206_iOS.jpg.

20180510_154757096_iOS.jpg

I'll leave you with a shot of some of the beautiful foliage on the path away from the Abbey.

IMGP4414.JPG

]]>
Yes
Bempton Cliffs RSPB reserve https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2018/05/08/bempton-cliffs-rspb-reserve Tue, 08 May 2018 20:07:00 +0000 Vanessa 9acf1da3-a834-ddd6-4b77-096328a35252 Bempton is a favourite day out of mine when I'm up in Yorkshire. I'm not an obsessive birder, but I do like to see them, particularly sea or wetland birds. I also enjoy the challenge of photographing them. Of course, I failed even to see the peregrine falcon during my visit, although I witnessed the impact it had on the other birds, as they all flew up into the air when it skimmed close to the cliffs.

Occasionally when I have been, the sky has been black with flying insects, effectively ruining most photos, but luckily that wasn't the case this time.

IMGP3947.JPG

If anything, the conditions were just a bit too good. My sunburnt arms will attest to that, as will some of the less than ideal exposures on my photos. At times I could neither see the viewfinder lights, nor check my shots on the screen afterwards. I do quite miss the swing-needle light meter on my old film camera!

IMGP3980.JPG

IMGP4007.JPG

There is quite a length of coastline at the reserve, with plenty of boardwalk viewing points for people to see the birds. On such a beautiful day the sea makes a stunning blue backdrop, setting off the birds in flight very well. Exposing correctly can be tricky, between sea, sky, white birds, dark birds, green grasses and dark grey cliffs.

IMGP4034.JPG.

I tend to under-expose for the ground and leave my camera set there. I did try a few in an automatic mode, but that didn't work at all. I'm also lucky in that my zoom lens has a manual focus option, so I can set it and wait for a bird to fly past at the right distance. Otherwise the auto focus just hunts around and is not fast enough to catch flying birds.

I saw a number of birds I had never seen before, too: a whitethroat, a reed bunting and a skylark. The highlight is always the appearance of any puffins. I saw some in a cleft in the rock, but at a considerable distance and only just visible. Luckily I also spotted a couple who were very close to one of the viewing platforms, so was able to join the queue for the prime spot!

IMGP4056.JPG.

IMGP4077.JPG.

IMGP4116.JPG.

IMGP4127.JPG

IMGP4163.JPG

]]>
Yes
April books https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2018/05/08/april-books Tue, 08 May 2018 17:48:00 +0000 Vanessa 9e48d4c0-fc06-b534-bef6-bdf893e57577 Started 29 March 2018Finished 13 April 2018

This was, at times, at slightly plodding account, but all thoroughly fascinating. I have seen the film of the same name and really enjoyed it, so I figured that the book would contain more information, which it did.Hidden Figures tells the story of the black workers at NACA, later NASA, and how they were instrumental in getting mankind into space and later on to the moon.In the days before the computers we know today, there was an army of people, human "computers", whose job it was to perform calculations and find the solutions to engineers' equations. Most of these computers were female, and most of them black. This was at a time when the US had widespread segregation still. The book charts the journey of several women; their struggle to get a decent education and to carve out careers in the white male dominated space industry.

I enjoyed this book and, more importantly, learned a lot. Like most people, I suspect, I had no idea what the set-up had been at NACA/NASA - I've read about the achievements and seen films, of course, but I didn't know anything about what went on behind the scenes. I now have a few more women to look up to!

The Batby Jo NesboNarrated by Sean Barrett

Started 14 AprilFinished 20 April

I enjoyed this, the first in the series of novels about Harry Hole. I tried reading one, but I couldn't get into it, so thought I'd see if the audiobook captured my attention more. It was certainly an improvement and I enjoyed the book. A bit surprised to find it was set in Australia, but I believe a number of them are set outside Norway.Will I read or listen to more? I don't know, I'm still undecided. They aren't completely to my taste, not in the way some of the other "Scandi" detective series have been.

The Disappeared (Joe Pickett 18).by C J Box.

Started 21 AprilFinished 29 April.

The latest in C J Box's Joe Pickett series, about a Wyoming game warden, this book sees a new governor send Joe away to investigate the disappearance of a British tourist This, of course becomes somewhat incidental to the story, which ends up involving all sorts of conspiracies. Joe's master falconer friend, Nate, turns up and things get complicated. A good read, as are all the other books in the series. For me, Box manages to depict the Wyoming scenery perfectly, so I get a real sense of the size and wildness of the country. Joe is always a likeable hero - now I'm waiting for the next book in the series…

]]>
Yes
A round-up of my adventures in web-land https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2018/04/27/a-round-up-of-my-adventures-in-web-land Fri, 27 Apr 2018 23:48:00 +0000 Vanessa f200880f-3330-0c61-dcc2-e9a9a927e991 This post is a (rather long) summary of my recent attempts to join the Indieweb movement, as viewed from the perspective of someone who, although far from stupid, doesn't have a great deal of experience with all things internet. The TL:DR version is "it wasn't easy, I had a lot of help, but I did it".

For a few years now I have been blogging from 10 Centuries, as it offered a very competitively priced and easy approach. Initially I made use of it by sending a private message from App.net, which was posted to my blog site. Then I subscribed and was able to use custom domains. Currently I have three blogs hosted on there: my main blog, my craft-related blog and one for the local choral society, for whom I am the accompanist. I don't intend on leaving the service, as it very much suits my needs. There's a really nice social side to the service, where I have made some good friends. Mostly we all "met" on the aforementioned App.net service. It was a good place to hang out and it piqued my interest in blogging and connecting with people on the internet. The owner of 10 Centuries, Jason Irwin, holds views very much in line with those of the Indieweb and is currently working on making his platform much more compatible with various indieweb components.

Over time, I became more aware of the "Indieweb". I followed conversations, picking up bits of information along the way - and also becoming more and more certain that this was all pretty meaningless to me. Talk of "APIs" and such like pretty much went straight over my head.

I heard about the Micro.Blog Kickstarter and decided to back it. Mostly because I was interested in the book; it's only recently that I have engaged with the blogging side of it - but I'm hooked!I can't recall where I first came across it, most likely on either 10Centuries or Pnut. As might be expected, both of these sites comprise a fairly high number of what I would call "techy" people.

I wouldn't necessarily say that dissatisfaction with Twitter was the reason I joined App.net, as I'm not a particularly avid user, but I have always believed that, in life, you get what you pay for. I realised that I, like so many others, had been sucked in to the idea of the "free" internet, almost without noticing. So, I decided to pay for the services I enjoyed. I support a few podcasts that I listen to (not all of them, just the ones I value the most). I also support the writings of a few bloggers/authors. Granted, I'm in a position where I can afford to do so, which isn't the same for everyone. "Free" social interaction is very attractive for a lot of people. Who wants to pay for every place they use on the internet ? It becomes expensive after a while!

A lot of the time the conversations I watch are very much above my head and I spent some time just feeling that all this was completely beyond me, which irritated me, but also spurred me on - I don't like to be defeated! Then I realised I was trying to understand people who had been involved with all this for years, whose experience levels far outstripped my own. It also crossed my mind that we all start somewhere, and that, although I'm no concert pianist, I have never, ever, considered not playing the piano. So I thought maybe I should have a go. I also thought that this might prove a point, one way or another. If I could get somewhere, then that meant the whole Indieweb thing wasn't only for the geeks. I also hoped that, just perhaps, my experiences might help someone else.

In order to play around, I needed a site that I had full control of. Whilst 10Centuries genuinely promotes the view that I still own my data, the hosting itself is closed off - or was - in that I couldn't add any code to my site, for example. I knew this was something I would have to be able to do so it became necessary to look for hosting elsewhere.

Domain

I already had a domain I wanted to use, so that was ok. The first step into Indieweb is having a domain that is yours (ok, effectively you rent it from a registrar). The content on your domain is under your control. if you fail to renew, it goes, but that's under your control, not someone else's. In Indieweb terms your domain represents you on the web. Most hosting companies will offer a free domain, for at least the first year. I did, in fact, pick up a new domain with my hosting, but haven't used it yet. Getting your domain from your hosting provider does make things more simple. I didn't, and I didn't transfer mine from its current registrar either, as it's a .uk domain, which requires some additional steps (apparently).

Hosting and blogging platform

There are a lot of hosting companies out there to choose from, and people's requirements vary considerably. In my own research I came up with a few things that I required (or didn't require).

Options range from fully-hosted WordPress services, something I didn't really want, to a VPS set-up, which is completely DIY - also something I didn't want.

WordPress.org was an obvious contender for blogging platform I had read that it was reasonably well supported in the Indieweb community. Basically, it had to be something pretty user-friendly. I knew I had no intention of running my own servers and I knew I didn't want to have to configure anything much myself: way beyond my skill-set. There are a myriad of blogging platforms and WordPress isn't for everyone, but it seemed to me to be a decent starting point. It's not the only blogging software, not by a long chalk, but it's probably a relatively easy one to start with. Most of the large hosting companies offer some form of shared hosting, with what is termed a "1-click" installation of WordPress, at the very least. I had previously used WordPress.com, so I was a little familiar with the setup.

I discounted a VPS, partly on the grounds of cost, but also because I really didn't want to be responsible for all aspects of the software I had on there - way beyond my current skill-set.

I wanted someone who provided WhoIs privacy, simply so that I didn't have to add that to the cost, or potentially forget to renew it. When making comparison lists, it's very easy to find that some things just aren't mentioned and you have to dig down into some detail to find what you want.

Does email come with the package - and do you even want it? I didn't, as I have email for my domain with Fastmail. Some companies include it, some charge extra for it; something to factor into calculations.

SSL isn't a great concern any more, as most hosting comes with a LetsEncrypt certificate, which is free. You'll have to pay for something with e-commerce, but baby steps…!

Do you have any geographical preferences for your hosting - and whether you do or not, does the company you choose have their servers in one location, or around the world? Privacy laws differ and, if that's important to you, then give it a lot of thought. I would have preferred to have UK/ROI hosting, but couldn't find something suitable (which isn't to say it doesn't exist, just that I either couldn't find it, or it didn't suit my requirements).

Look at what you are actually getting for the price - there are offers a-plenty, but what is the year 2 cost? Also, the cheap price may turn out to be too limiting for what you might want. There may be restrictions on the number of sites you can have, or the bandwidth you can use.

in the end I opted for Dreamhost - it had been recommended by a few people, it offered pretty much what I wanted and wasn't excessively expensive. Over $100 a year, though, although there are 2 & 3-year options which reduce the cost. As said earlier, I picked up a domain with them, which I hope to use. I thought it suited me, being a craft-obsessed, piano-playing person (it's crotchetcrochet.com). I do have some plans for it, in time… Yes, because I can't help myself, it's highly likely that I will try to get some kind of non-WordPress installation up and running, so I can play with it on that site. Glutton for punishment, me…

Configure domain with new provider

If you registered a domain with your host, then this will likely be done for you. I had to point my domain to Dreamhost's nameservers. Fortunately, both my registrar and Dreamhost have excellent how-to sites. A bit of reading and things were (relatively) fine.

I had some complications because of who my registrar is (Gandi) and because I didn't want to move my domain. I had to unhook my DNS from Cloudflare and then move them to Dreamhost. I then re-enabled Cloudflare under Dreamhost and had all sorts of problems. Possibly because I had redirects on my domains which route the bare domain to www, so that I can use a URL rather than a static IP. I think I ended up going round in circles thanks to some choices I made with my WordPress setup. But that's my problem at times - what seems quite obvious to some people isn't always to me.

Install blogging software

Most hosting providers offer a 1-click install of WordPress, which sets everything up for you pretty quickly. I didn't have to know about PHP or MySql as all that was set up for me. Otherwise I'd probably still be writing with crayons on paper (ok, with fountain pens on very nice paper, but still…).When I said I wanted an SSL certificate, my hosting provider applied a certificate to the root domain. Currently, wildcard certificates don't seem to be available for free; I believe this has something to do with the auto-renewal process not working properly, but I'm not entirely sure. I did wonder if I would need to have a certificate for the www subdomain, too, but that wasn't an available option. Within the WordPress software some changes had to be made, as WordPress assumes that the page you will want to use is the "www" one. So I had to tell WordPress that my site is on the bare domain, but that just entailed putting the url in a couple of boxes in the Admin panel.

Configuring the blog

Choice of theme is important, obviously. It defines how your site will look, but also some themes will play more nicely with Indieweb principles than others. Generally the recommended WordPress ones are Independent Publisher, or SemPress. I opted for SemPress. Changed the page layout, altered some colours - all these things are easy enough to do. I only wanted a simple blog to contain my posts, which is why I set up WordPress on a the blog subdomain, leaving the main domain free for whatever I might choose to use it for.

Once I got to this point, I had a site up and running, but of course, it doesn't end there…

One thing I learned after I had made some changes is that when using a theme, it is good practice straight away to create a "child theme" to which you can make changes without having them overwritten by any theme updates. After a bit of encouragement from online friends, I consulted the relevant WordPress codex pages and seem to have succeeded. Yes, to do this, I needed to be able to SFTP into my site, and for that I use Filezilla, which is very easy to use. You will be allocated an SFTP username for your site when setting it up. It's just a secure way to download files, change them and upload them back. Not much more complicated than opening a document from a network drive really.

Enhancements

I wanted to make my site Indieweb-compliant, so I had more work to do. There is an Indieweb plugin for WordPress which handles a lot of the things needed. I installed that and set to work. The plugin makes it easy to set things up so that you can be "verified". The instructions are clear and once I had added my domain to my Twitter bio (oh the irony of having to use a silo'd site to verify my identity), that was done. I could also use my Github account, which I created in an over-optimistic moment of madness once. There's no code on there, nor is there likely to be any time soon!! I was mildly confused by the fact that very few sites seem to be able to be used for this verification process, to be honest.

I next enabled the following plugins:

WebmentionsSemantic-linkbacksPost kindsMicropubBridgy

I admit I don't really know what they all do, but that's something I will work on. I certainly don't understand how they do what they do and I don't know that I want to!

I have purchased a backup solution for my site, Updraft, which was very easy to set up and runs in the background. That cost around £50, but I have the option of running it unsupported in the future, or a reduced-cost renewal. I know it's only a diddy little WordPress site, but I'll likely renew - after all, most of my other data is backed up to a removable drive, two cloud sites and I also run an Arq backup from my main Windows box, as well as Time Machine backups on my Macbook. I do like a good backup.

Issues

Pesky post titles

I added the rss feed for my site to my Micro.blog account, as I wanted my posts to show up there - after all, that was the whole point of the exercise, really.

My other blog sites are also fed across to my Micro.blog account. These appear as the title of the post, with a link back to the full article. Micro.blog treats posts without a title as status updates and this was what I wanted to send from my new WordPress blog. Assuming anything I wrote was shorter than the 280 character-limit and had no title, it would appear in Micro.blog in full, rather as a Tweet does in Twitter. Accordingly, I decided to use the post type "status" and not add a title. Unfortunately, the SemPress theme I chose forces a title - I have since found the code that does this. As a result, my posts were "Post number…" followed by a link back to the "post", which was mainly a short status update. Not what I wanted. Nobody is going to take the time to click on a link every time! I don't know how to override that bit of code in my theme, so a very kind soul (one of many in the wider Indieweb community) gave me a piece of code that I could use to remove the post title from the rss feed for any posts of the type "status". Now my WordPress default post type is set to "status" so that this just works. If want to write a long-form post, I will change that, either in MarsEdit, or in the admin panel, depending where I am writing from.

Comment approval

I enabled the Webmentions plugin and, I have to say, it just worked. Now when i post on my site, that post goes to Micro.blog and any replies appear on my site (as well as in the Micro.blog timeline). It's great to see conversations showing up on my blog! Initially I had to approve every single comment - although WordPress implies that it will verify subsequent comments, it doesn't work, at least not in the way I needed it to. After consultation with the Indieweb gurus in the Slack room, I had a couple of options: auto-approve all comments made via webmentions, as the risk of spam is almost negligible, or auto-approve comments for a person, after I have manually approved their first one. I elected for this option and added a piece of code that another kind Indieweb soul had written and shared.

Cross-posting

I have used Bridgy to post to Facebook, but I have yet to figure out how to get it to post a photo as well. I tried some suggestions, but they didn't work. This goes on my to-do list. No doubt a simple solution, but I haven't found it yet. Partly because cross-posting hasn't really bothered me, but it is nice to have the option to post the odd photo to a couple of places in one go.

Conclusion

My set-up is very simple but, even so, it hasn't been without its issues. That said, I do have a site up and running. I'm not a coder, I'm borderline techy at best and yet, albeit with a lot of help, I have made it. I don't think it's any secret that the Indieweb isn't for everyone, yet. It requires some patience, a lot of learning and not a little determination. A far cry from the "create your account now" of the usual social media silos. I do think the bar to entry is getting lower though. There are some great people putting in significant amounts of effort so that us mere mortals have a chance of being in control of our content on the internet. All I can say is: have a go, it can be done. Have the courage to stick your hand up and ask for help, there are people who will gladly assist.

There is a cost barrier to the Indieweb, however, as it does rather require that you put your money where your mouth is!

Micro.blog does a good job of pulling together people's various existences on the web into a social stream where people can interact. It also provides a relatively low-cost, frictionless entry into owning your own content, in that it will provide hosting for you, as well as cross-posting to the dreaded duo of Facebook and Twitter.

Of course, the overarching issue with any of these social spaces is simply critical mass. Twitter and Facebook have that: most people are there so that's where most people go. It will take a lot for that to change, particularly for it to change in favour of one or two other social networking sites, so they in turn reach that critical mass. I don't really see it happening, to be honest. Most people really don't care enough. Which is fine, it's their choice. I doubt I will leave Facebook, as I can keep in touch with friends easily on there. I don't use it a great deal, however, other than to post the occasional amusing anecdote. I certainly don't live my life in public on there. For me, I'm quite happy for none of my Facebook friends to know about my other life, out here on the wider internet. I doubt many, if any, know that I have several blogs and have done any of the things I've been up to recently. And you know what, I'm quite happy with that.

At this point, I feel the need to acknowledge and thank some of the people who have helped me and encouraged me in my venture:-

  • Jeremy Cherfas who is largely reponsible for encouraging me to attempt all this and has been a great moral support.
  • Jason Irwin for running 10 Centuries, my favourite little corner of the internet, hosting three of my blog sites and thus affording me my first steps out into the Inter-world, being ever-patient and helpful, and for sharing photos of his gorgeous puppy, Nozomi.
  • Colin Walker for the ability to remove pesky post titles, for a handy plugin which opens comments on my blog, as posting via XML-RPC doesn't.
  • Chris Aldrich for advice in Micro.blog and Slack.
  • Gregor Morrill for the wonderful comment-approval piece of code.
  • Manton Reece, for creating Micro.blog.

No doubt I've forgotten people, but these are the main ones who have helped and encouraged me over the last 7 weeks - has it really only been 7 weeks?!

Oh, and I have pondered at length over where this post belongs. I should post it on the WordPress site, my new home. But my main blog is on 10C and I have decided that's where my longer posts will live.

]]>
Yes
March 2018 books https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2018/04/02/march-2018-books Mon, 02 Apr 2018 22:39:00 +0000 Vanessa 2bdae8f6-1e5c-2749-855d-2357c6623faa I've had a bit of a 1980's-referencing kick in March, to judge by most of my listening.

Tonight You're DeadBy Viveca StenNarrated by Angela Dawe

Started 9 MarchFinished 12 March

A further book in the series of murder mysteries set in the Stockholm archipelago, primarily on Sandhamm. I enjoy these, as they are gentle books (for ones containing murder). I don't think this was the best one I've read/listened to, but enjoyable.

We Are Legion (We are Bob) (audiobook)For We Are ManyAll These Worldsby Dennis E TaylorNarrated by Ray Porter

Started 12 MarchFinished 23 March

Having read all three of these books in succession it made sense to lump them together, not least because I loved them all equally. Thoroughly entertaining science fiction, full of attitude and snarky humour. I shall miss the Bobs.

In short, a guy is killed, having signed up to have his head frozen after death. Then he wakes, to find he is now a disembodied mind who is in line to be put in charge of a spaceship. Off he goes, clones himself, and gets involved in colonisation of other planets, battles in space, romance, saving alien species, to list just a few of his adventures. There is plenty of humour, some scary parts and some beautifully touching bits. I loved the humour, plus the frequent references to popular culture during the time Bob was alive. Clones and new worlds named after astronauts, tv Sci Fi characters and locations, Sci Fi novels (or not quite, as in book 3 when a planet is mis-named by the omission of a letter).

I'm sure the books are good, but the audiobooks are brilliant. The narration is superb; each "Bob" is identifiable, without becoming comical. Some of the most entertaining readings I've listened to. Unless you loathe Sci Fi and/or have no sense of humour, I would highly recommend these books.

Ready Player Oneby Ernest ClineNarrated by Wil Wheaton

Started 26 MarchFinished 29 March

I enjoyed this, particularly the narration by Wil Wheaton. A few times I felt the writing was a little repetitive and occasionally a tad boring. For the most part, though, it was an entertaining listen. The references to the 1980s was fun, much as it was in the previous three book I listened to. I don't know that this is a particularly memorable book, but certainly enjoyable enough to keep me listening rather than watching tv.

]]>
Yes
A purple patch https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2018/03/22/a-purple-patch Thu, 22 Mar 2018 13:44:00 +0000 Vanessa acfaca1e-04bd-cb89-1fa1-1885d7226cb9 It's not a secret that I'm rather partial to the colour purple, although I am fussy about my purples. Not too pink, thank you. This week I was alerted to a new purple ink, Flower of Scotland, from Pure Pens so I just had to buy it. I have my eye of some more of the inks in their range, too, although Celtic Sea was the only one of them in stock at the time.

The inks arrived the day after I ordered them and I am rather pleased with them both. Flower of Scotland sits in between my Diamine Imperial Purple (a bit pink for me) and my Monteverde Charoite (I love this ink, as I do the other five Monteverde inks I have). I like it. It is nice and rich. Possibly not as office-friendly as Diamine Bilberry, but hey. It's coming a very close second to my beloved Charoite.

Oh, I also have J Herbin Larmes de Cassis and Poussière de Lune, but didn't feel that they really belonged in this, admittedly brief, comparison.

Traditional writing sample below, utilising some of my favourite quotes.

AFF8FA1F-2ED9-4087-A9E0-35C6233F3D54.jpeg

]]>
Yes
Adventures in web-land (6) https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2018/03/18/adventures-in-web-land-6 Sun, 18 Mar 2018 18:05:00 +0000 Vanessa b65cb0f3-57fa-ce54-2b1e-a3dbe1687803 Sadly not a great deal of progress this weekend. I had planned to work on adding the webmentions and semantic linkback plugins, but illness has forced a day in bed today.

As ever, help has been forthcoming from those further down the Indieweb road.

After adding my various internet presences to my WordPress blog, and vice versa, I ran my site through Indiewebify.me to see how I was doing. Only my GitHub and Twitter accounts tracked back and got me a tick in the box, as it were. I checked my syntax, but nothing changed. Oh, I got "verified" on micro.blog but that doesn't track back, either. I left things, there, feeling a little discouraged. It turns out that pretty much only Twitter and GitHub do actually return the favour. So if you don't have an account on one of those two services you fail step 1? I couldn't find anything in the Indieweb documentation that explained this. The answer came from the Indiewebcamp Slack. Still, at least that exists!

I set the iOS Microblog app to post to my WordPress site rather than to my Microblog hosted site. It posted perfectly: a status post with no title. Unfortunately, when the RSS feed got sent back to Micro.blog it arrived as a post number and a link. Not what I intended at all. It would appear that the indieweb-compatible SemPress theme inserts the post number: it's visible in the WordPress admin panel. It doesn't display on the published site, but somehow it's there.

I have been given some code to insert which will strip out titles on status posts from the RSS feed - when I'm at a computer that will be something I try next. This needs to be a toggle in the theme, if it's going to be easy to understand for the average person.

From my recent experience it seems there is a need for a fully compatible WordPress theme. Or maybe I shouldn't have opted to go with WordPress. I really felt that this was a happy halfway house, though. I'm not about to run my own server, nor do I have the skills required to run other blogging software on my Dreamhost space.

Onwards and upwards.

]]>
Yes
Adventures in web-land (5) https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2018/03/10/adventures-in-web-land-5 Sat, 10 Mar 2018 19:27:00 +0000 Vanessa 483c482b-64ef-b7c7-6502-10a78008cd0a They do say time flies when you're having fun. That'll be where the last four hours have gone then.

I updated some settings in the site I was having problems with and they seemed to work. I changed the .htaccess file and the wp-config file and things stopped working. There must have been an issue with the .htaccess file so I renamed it and generated a new one. I have to say, the various help pages on the Internet have been suitably useful. Now everything seems to load, although not as https, which was the aim of the exercise. Hmm.

On the other site, the one I most want to use, I installed the SemPress theme, messed around with various parts of it to get it looking halfway reasonable, then moved on to Indiewebbing it. I have managed to get some of my sites to link back successfully, now I've realised how picky it all is - just putting x-dot-com is no good if it's https:// as that seems to need to be specified. At the point my desire for food overcame my desire to continue, micro.blog had verified me based on this rel=me stuff, but allegedly there was no track back, according to indiewebify.me. I might try again later. In theory, though, I'm verified. And hungry…

]]>
Yes
Adventures in web-land (4) https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2018/03/09/adventures-in-web-land-4 Fri, 09 Mar 2018 13:45:00 +0000 Vanessa 7dd79045-f28b-3cb3-7dd5-39996a394c0d A summary of things learnt this week.

• Don't use Cloudflare if you want SSL.• If you want SSL the certificate will sit at the root of your domain, so it makes sense to point www there.

When you add a domain in Dreamhost as fully hosted (without which you seem to be limited as to what you can do) it creates some zone file records (some, not many), one of which is the www subdomain. That makes sense, as people tend to see them as being the same thing. However, one of the first questions asked is about keeping root and www separate, forwarding root to www, or forwarding www to root. Please excuse any inaccurate terms. Dreamhost refers to it as "replacing", my registrar talks of permanent forwarding and browser errors talk of "redirects".

I wanted SSL - it's the main reason some of my other sites go through Cloudflare. It's an option on the main screen here. Dreamhost installs a Lets Encrypt SSL certificate on the bare domain, no choice is given. Fair enough, makes sense. No wildcards are supported and the certificates are free, so they can be installed on each/any subdomain. How to put one on www? Not a clue. I couldn't find a way. So if you forward the bare domain to www it shows up as non-secure. This doesn't appear to be explained at all.

Cloudflare - apparently it and Dreamhost are partners. So, if you opt to run through Cloudflare, Dreamhost handles it all for you. On my other sites my registrar's control panel pretty much says "nope, you're using Cloudflare's nameservers, up yours, deal with stuff there". Which is fine, any changes you want can be made in your Cloudflare account. I changed my mx settings, added a load of CNAME entries (as instructed by Fastmail) and all was fine. Setting up Fastmail had been one of the easiest things I've done for some time. With Dreamhost you have to make any changes through their interface. Probably nice and straightforward, but less so for me. Not least because Dreamhost refused to let me add more than one CNAME record. My email works though. Big relief.

Dreamhost will tell you that Cloudflare requires you to forward to www. So you have to select that at the start. Did you want SSL? See earlier. It's on the bare domain, but you will be displaying www. At one point I couldn't even load my site because I got "too many redirects". Cloudflare is no longer enabled.

I don't mean this to sound as if I'm not happy with my hosting; far from it. This is just intended to show the issues I have had. Maybe I was overthinking things. I'm no web designer, just a user with a little knowledge (I know - a dangerous thing).

Of course, I could well be wrong about all of this, but at least I can log in to my (as yet unused) WordPress sites.

]]>
Yes
February 2018 books https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2018/03/08/february-2018-books Thu, 08 Mar 2018 22:54:00 +0000 Vanessa 412c8ae8-41a8-6143-cdb2-69fdb372ec4a With all the excitement (?) of playing with t'internet and things webby this week, I almost forgot to bore the world (or, more likely, nobody) with the list of books consumed in the last month.

Heretic (audiobook)By Bernard CornwellRead by Andrew Cullum

Started 1 FebruaryFinished 5 February

The final volume in the grail trilogy. Eventually the main plot got resolved, right at the very end of the story. I felt this book was centered on battles even more than the first two; maybe that was the cumulative effect though. Definitely time for a break from Cornwell, though I have enjoyed the books and the narration has been excellent.

A gathering storm (audiobook)By Rachel HoreRead by Geri Halligan

Started 5 FebruaryFinished 8 February

Rather underwhelmed by this, so I doubt I'll read any more by this author. The story was pleasant enough, a young woman listening to the tale of an old lady's history, which turned out (not exactly a great surprise) to be entwined with that of the younger woman's family. I didn't particularly warm to any of the characters, which meant the book didn't really good my attention all that well. The narration was fine, though, very well done.

Bryant and May and the Invisible Code (audiobook)By Christopher FowlerRead by Tim Goodman

Started 8 FebruaryFinished 15 February

Full of fun as usual, along with detailed knowledge of London and main characters of whom most readers are very fond. This story started with a murder (don't they all), wandered through the troubles of being a "Government wife", laid out a number of misdirects and, for me, ended up somewhere rather unexpected. One of the more enjoyable stories, including sub-plots about biological weapons.

Bryant and May and the Bleeding Heart (audiobook)By Christopher FowlerRead by Tim Goodman

Started 16 FebruaryFinished 22 February

An intriguing tale, this one. A little gruesome, starting as it did with what appeared to be a risen corpse. This is Bryant and May though… As ever, Bryant goes off on his own tangent, delving into some rather dark magic/mysticism. In the end the puzzle is solved, winning over an influential person, and the Peculiar Crimes Unit lives on.

Pompeii (audiobook)By Robert HarrisRead by Steven Pacey

Started 23 FebruaryFinished 26 February

Immediately on starting this book I thought the narration seemed rather fast. A shame, as I generally like Steven Pacey's voice. After while, though, I adjusted and thoroughly enjoyed the story. As is often the way with Harris, I start and, for a while, wonder if I will continue. Soon enough, though, I'm thoroughly engrossed in the story. This covers a fairly short period just before Vesuvius erupted. It follows a newly-appointed engineer, who is in charge of the aqueduct serving the area. The previous post-holder (the Aquarius) has disappeared. The new man faces resentment and resistance from his staff. Pretty soon he realises something is wrong and starts to investigate. We all know the outcome, but the story was still enjoyable.

]]>
Yes
Adventures in web-land (3) https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2018/03/08/adventures-in-web-land-3 Thu, 08 Mar 2018 08:23:00 +0000 Vanessa b3258fca-ae27-c1ba-92c1-d1cd1b410267 Thanks to a suggestion from a friend on social media, both the WordPress sites I installed are accessible, showing as secure and I can log in to the admin panels. The solution? Disabling Cloudflare. I could then redirect www to the bare domain, where the SSL certificate lives and all the redirect issues went away. The only reason I opted to use Cloudflare was habit: I run some other sites through it purely to pick up the free SSL certificate they provide, nothing else.

Step 1 of many seems to be complete. I now have a lot of reading to do - and a blog theme to select!

]]>
Yes
Adventures in web-land (2) https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2018/03/07/adventures-in-web-land-2 Wed, 07 Mar 2018 09:26:00 +0000 Vanessa bcbd946b-cbe2-e2e9-b85e-449361d4930c It's the morning after the night before and certain things appear to have settled down. My bare domain (and it's allegedly mandatory www redirect) now seem to load and bring up https displaying the www address.

Email is still working - go Fastmail, I'm pretty pleased with them.

My "blog." subdomain still seems to be a bit random. I'm pretty sure I didn't forward to www on this, whilst still opting for Cloudflare - which rather contradicts what I was forced to do with the main domain. Mind you, as it's a subdomain, I don't see why it should have a www sub-subdomain, that doesn't seem logical. However, in order to get hosting for it I had to add it to Dreamhost separately from the main site. The options panel was exactly the same as for the bare domain, when I don't think it should be.

I did originally add a CNAME entry pointing to the Microblog hosted site it is set up for. When I tried to verify the WordPress installation last night I got a 404 error, so I deleted the CNAME entry, as it seems to require me to verify the WordPress installation at a published site, which strikes me as a bit odd. I would have thought I could work on it offline, without pointing it to the world. I suspect I need to read more about how to do that, and the default is for Dreamhost to publish you as quickly as possible.

This morning blog.vanessahamshere.uk comes up with the WordPress landing page, so the removal of the pointer to my Microblog page has worked. However, it doesn't have https, so perhaps I'm still waiting for that to happen. When I go to the link to verify the WordPress installation I no longer get a 404 error, instead I get a message saying the browser can't open the page because too many redirects occurred. Something to leave for later, I guess - the day job calls! It mildly amuses me that the site that has nothing redirected comes up with a "too many redirects" error.

Watch this space…

]]>
Yes
Adventures in web-land (1) https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2018/03/07/adventures-in-web-land-1 Wed, 07 Mar 2018 01:03:00 +0000 Vanessa ff4026b2-0ce4-abae-168b-dcc6274e2c85 Well, dear reader, this could be the first of many posts on this topic…

I finally took the plunge and purchased some web hosting, with the intention of learning something about the subject and, hopefully, some things Indieweb, via a WordPress blog.

It started off quite well - signing up and spending money was easy enough, of course.

I added the domain I wanted to use, updated my registrar's nameservers to point to Dreamhost, nothing too taxing so far.

I added in the various records I needed for my Fastmail account. As long as that continues to work I'll be no worse off. Although, even then, Fastmail gave me three CNAME records to add, but Dreamhost would only let me add one. No idea why, as previously I'd added all three to Cloudflare for this domain.

When adding the domain to hosting, I opted to use Cloudflare, as I already have an account there and Dreamhost is an official partner. That meant that I was forced to use a redirect from the bare domain to www. Also ok, I thought, as my main blogs currently have that in place, so I can point to the AWS servers they are hosted on. The bare domain can only contain an A record; I learnt that when my provider moved from static IPs to AWS. All ok so far.

I then decided I'd like security on the site. Dreamhost provides LetsEncrypt certificates for free and does it all for you. Fine, click and it shall be done.

I installed WordPress and got that set up. My site showed the basic welcome page. Superb. Time for bed and to revisit this all at a later date. Until the site failed to load, giving me security and certificate warnings, with the browsers eventually refusing to serve up the site at all.

I'm confused and the only thing I can think is that the certificate has been applied to the bare domain, which redirects to the unsecured www subdomain. No problem, request a certificate for www. Can't. Can't add it as a hosted subdomain because Dreamhost says it already has a record of it. It probably does but I have yet to work out how I can secure it,

I went through similar processes with my "blog." subdomain but that has a 404 error message now, most likely because removing its pointer to my hosted micro.blog hadn't propagated through yet.

Tomorrow is another day and I guess that if nothing ever went wrong I'd not learn much. There has to be a solution as I don't think.I'm trying to set up anything too unusual.

]]>
Yes
18-02-2018 1 https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2018/02/18/18-02-2018-1 Sun, 18 Feb 2018 00:08:00 +0000 Vanessa 974f2938-8576-c8d7-6a65-67639131ef87 Test post for microblogging, to see if I can work round mandatory post titles.

]]>
Yes
January 2018 books https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2018/02/01/january-2018-books Thu, 01 Feb 2018 18:37:00 +0000 Vanessa d995a7d4-6f3a-3851-019f-df66c81f6ac6 Started 29 DecemberFinished 1 January

Book three (chronologically) in the Dark Iceland series and even better than the first two. This book weaves several different story threads together in an interesting way. It's difficult to decide which is the main story, but it doesn't matter. I like spending time with the main characters in these stories and I enjoy the depiction of life in Northern Iceland. On to the next book now…

Whiteout (audiobook)By Ragnar JonassonRead by Leighton Pugh

Started 1 JanuaryFinished 3 January

Another good book, though I think Rupture was slightly better. This had plenty of interest, though; Ari Thor reuniting with his previous boss, the progress of his relationship with his girlfriend. The plot was fine, but didn't seem all that gripping. Still, overall an entertaining listen.

Nightblind (audiobook)By Ragnar JonassonRead by Leighton Pugh

Started 4 JanuaryFinished 5 January

There was a lot more intrigue in this novel than in the previous one and I enjoyed it more as a result. The story centres around the murder of the local police inspector and I didn't guess whodunit until it was revealed, which makes a change!I found the main character's girlfriend rather annoyingly unsympathetic in this book, whereas I had started to warm to her in the previous one. I have enjoyed these books and hope there are more to come.

How to be Champion (audiobook)By Sarah MillicanRead by Sarah Millican

Started 6 JanuaryFinished 8 January

Thoroughly enjoyable book, although probably not if you don't like Sarah Millican's humour. I do, obviously, as I bought the book. I haven't bought any Russell Brand books…

This book is a humorous look at Millican's life and career to date, but it is set out in the form of a self-help book, with tips on "how to be champion" at the ends of chapters. It's not all hilarious, some of it is quite sad, and parts are quite shocking. Not surprising, given the state of society today, when people seem to think that anyone in the entertainment business is fair game. The tales she tells of abusive comments on Twitter is pretty grim. Overall, I found the book entertaining, uplifting and quite inspiring.

Harlequin/The Archer's Tale (audiobook)By Bernard CornwellRead by Andrew Cullum.

Started 9 JanuaryFinished 14 January

I picked this book because it was the first of the Grail trilogy and I'm a sucker for a Grail story. In this first novel it gets mentioned, but that is all. It centres around a young archer, Thomas of Hookton, following his progress as, after the French raid and destroy his town, he joins the English army and fights in France, at the start of the 100 years war. Not my usual book, although I read the early novels in the Saxon series by Cornwell. I enjoyed it though. The main character is quite compelling; far from perfect, very human, but I found myself rooting for him and sympathising with his situation. The novel ends with the battle of Crécy, which is described in some detail, but, fortunately, not to the point of boredom. I look forward to listening to the remaining books in the series.

The Shack (audiobook)By William P YoungRead by Roger Mueller

Started 15 JanuaryFinished 19 January

I read this book some years ago, along with a lot of other people, I expect. I fancied listening to it, so picked up the audiobook. On balance, I think it is better to read than to listen to, but I enjoyed this. Occasionally the narrator seemed to overdo things a bit, which almost detracted from the story. I preferred it when I read the book and occasionally went "ooh". I felt with the audiobook things were rather unsubtly signposted at times. Good to wind down with, though.

Vagabond (audiobook)By Bernard CornwellRead by Andrew Cullum

Started 23 JanuaryFinished 31 January

The second instalment of the grail trilogy (although there is a linked fourth book). This book develops the story a little - somewhat scarily at one point involving the torture of the main character, Thomas, by a Catholic priest. The character was thoroughly scary; and very well portrayed by the narrator, who made him seem really creepy.

As with most Cornwell novels, there is a lot of detailed description of a number of battles. It did occasionally feel as though the story was just a vague thread holding together tales of battles in the 100-years war. I'll see what the third book brings to the main plot. Not that I didn't enjoy the book - I did and I know what to expect from Cornwell, having read a number of his books over the years.

]]>
Yes
December Books https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2018/01/01/december-books Mon, 01 Jan 2018 12:36:00 +0000 Vanessa f656e030-8207-ebed-fe09-4014b2f7bfe3 Started 21 NovemberFinished 8 December

I have the kindle version of this book, but had never got round to reading it, so I thought I'd try the audiobook. Much is made in reviews of how cerebral/geeky/techy the book is, with its detailed descriptions of cryptography. I have to say I wasn't aware of that, but this could be because I know a little about the subject - but only a little.On balance, I enjoyed the book, although I lost focus a bit towards the end. I don't necessarily think it's the classic that some people do, but I don't regret the time spent on it.I did find the narrator's tone of voice a little irritating at times, along with some of the voices he gave to characters, but then I'm a Brit and less familiar with American accents.

The Water's Edge (audiobook)By Karin FossumNarrated by David Rintoul

Started 8 DecemberFinished 10 December

My first Karin Fossum. I expect she is someone whose books I'll read again.David Rintoul - I have loved this man's voice since seeing him in "Pride and Prejudice" on TV many years ago (and he still remains my favourite Mr Darcy).I enjoyed this story. Not exactly fast-paced, but very easy to listen to.

The Body in the Thames (audiobook)By Susannah GregoryNarrated by Gordon Griffin

Started 11 DecemberFinished 13 December

I have read a number of Susannah Gregory's Thomas Chaloner novels and enjoyed them, so I thought I might give an audiobook a go, especially as it was part of a two-for-one offer. I had reservations about the narrator. He was ok, but there was something about the voice that I didn't like all that much (not to mention constantly pronouncing adversary with the emphasis on the second syllable - one of many pronunciations on my "list"). That said, I enjoyed the story; plenty of interest and intrigue to keep me listening.

The Mistletoe SellerBy Dilly Court

Started 10 DecemberFinished 11 December

I read this in one sitting. It's the first novel I've read by Dilly Court, and I suspect that they may well all follow a similar formula; that of a poverty-stricken 19th-century heroine who either makes good, finds good fortune, or both. That's not to say I didn't enjoy this, I did, very much. Sometimes this sort of story makes a pleasant change, much like the occasional Georgette Heyer novel does.

Killman CreekBy Rachel Caine

Started 12 DecemberFinished 12 December

Another one-sitting read. I pre-ordered this book, having read Stillhouse Lake, by the same author. This is the follow-up to that book and is equally as thrilling, with plenty of twists and turns. It covers a lot of bases - the nastiness that social media can spread, fake evidence, the fear we all have of being trapped/framed and struggling to prove our innocence, betrayal, isolation and a truly, believable psychopath. Thoroughly enjoyed both books.

Killers of the Flower Moon (audiobook)By David GrannNarrated by Will Patton, Ann Marie Lee, Danny Campbell

Started 13 DecemberFinished 18 December

I found this story fascinating and not a little horrifying. Like a lot of non-Americans I was broadly aware of the treatment of the native peoples, but I had never heard of the Osage, let alone what had happened to them in the 1920s. This story was told well, from the point of view of the Osage people, from the point of view of the lead investigator and then a final section drawing everything together and expanding on it from the work done more recently by the author. I found myself drawn into the tale and I am glad I picked the book.

The Last Thing She Ever DidBy Gregg Olsen

Started 14 DecemberFinished 29 December

Well, I finally finished this. I can't say the story really grabbed me, to be honest. It seemed a little far-fetched - not the initial part, but pretty soon it diverged from what I could accept as plausible. Add to that characters who were almost entirely unsympathetic, plus an abrupt ending and, well, I just wasn't feeling it with this one. It started well and showed promise - a day out which ended in tragedy. That set up the back story, and, to be honest, that was the most interesting part. Maybe it was just me, but I'm rather glad this was a Kindle First, so I didn't pay for it.

Cosmos (audiobook)By Carl SaganNarrated by LeVar Burton

Started 18 DecemberFinished 22 December

I never read this book, though I probably should have. I first came across Carl Sagan when he presented the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures, back in 1977. I was fascinated and have been interested in astronomy and cosmology ever since.Back to 2017 and I was pleased to see this had been released as an audiobook. The narration was excellent, as expected from LeVar Burton. His voice is very pleasant to listen to. The content was, understandably, a little dated and seemed quite simplistic. That's probably because I have read quite a lot on the subject and this book was written for the casual reader. It was groundbreaking; one of the first of many and I'm glad I finally got around to it.

Lightning (audiobook)By Dean KoontzNarrated by Christopher Lane

Started 22 DecemberFinished 24 December

Good. Not Koontz' best, but intriguing and interesting. I liked the characters and there were a few plot twists. It has made me want to re-read a lot of my old Koontz novels.

Ad Astra an illustrated guide to leaving the planet (audiobook)By Dallas CampbellNarrated by Dallas Campbell

Started 26 DecemberFinished 26 December

A fairly light listen, but, although it's a subject which interests me, I do feel I learned some new things. Campbell is an engaging presenter on television and he reads his own book well. I have the Kindle version, too, to make the best of the "illustrated" part of the title. Not a groundbreaking work, but entertaining and informative.

Snowblind (audiobook)By Ragnar JonassonNarrated by Thor Kristjansson

Started 27 DecemberFinished 27 December

I enjoyed this, very atmospheric. It was a slow burn, but set up the characters well. Some reviewers have commented that the atmosphere was conveyed rather obviously; by direct, repeated statements, rather than by allowing the reader/listener to reach their own conclusions. True, to some extent, but it didn't seem to be overly intrusive to me.The narration was, well, interesting. On the one hand, having a Scandinavian narrator helped with setting the scene, and the Icelandic names, but on the other, it proved slightly confusing, as the speech pattern was rather different and it didn't always flow. It wasn't a deal-breaker, just occasionally required a short rewind.I am going to continue with the series, as I enjoyed this one.

Blackout (audiobook)By Ragnar JonassonNarrated by Leighton Pugh

Started 28 DecemberFinished 28 December

I think this book was better than the first. It is listed as book 3 in the series, but book 2 is the latest, chronologically, so I'm saving that until last. Admittedly, the characters are now familiar, but I also found the story more interesting, with a few surprises along the way. The narration was much more to my taste than the first book and this is a narrator I'm happy to listen to again - just as well, as he has read the next three books.

As it's the end of the year, time for a little summing-up of 2017 in books.

I have read 21 books and listened to 33 (only joining Audible mid-July), making a total of 54 books consumed. My lowest number in a month was June, with no books finished, and my highest has been December with 12 books finished. Ending on a strong note.

]]>
Yes
Kingston Lacy Illuminated Walk https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2017/12/15/kingston-lacy-illuminated-walk Fri, 15 Dec 2017 18:53:00 +0000 Vanessa c51725d1-22ea-ad40-49c9-deb57475aff4 Some friends invited me to go with them to see the illuminated walk at Kingston Lacy, a National Trust property near to me. It meant finishing work 30 minutes early, but that was just an added incentive for me to hit my goals for today, which I did.It was pretty cold out, so hats, scarves and gloves were deployed and hot chocolate was consumed afterwards.

A2C2D64A-4193-4BB2-A9EA-C56B86B33C37.jpeg 037162B1-806F-4784-AA8E-737409070FCA.jpeg F40A4176-0095-49C5-A590-2EB521E8FE46.jpeg 3EDB732D-E0C2-49C0-B0CF-01DB3187EA71.jpeg 9D1ECBD5-0901-4BE5-B313-D9C66902C3BA.jpeg D9A4324E-41F9-4729-8180-3BCE290366E8.jpeg 48C87460-B6B6-46F5-AE48-6BD10A071B68.jpeg 207CA64C-D4F7-4B79-AB6D-CAC39468F560.jpeg A28B6D9F-4C10-49E8-A69E-24C903117B7B.jpeg 86F7B666-85EB-43AC-AFEC-88A3154E8014.jpeg 9A8BC605-369F-4403-ACBD-A1B6BDB95A9A.jpeg 4A239DF9-6C36-4137-8F68-0204C4DE6F2A.jpeg A54CC88C-95A5-4560-A935-134ACB3EAA2F.jpeg

]]>
Yes
November Books https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2017/11/19/november-books Sun, 19 Nov 2017 19:47:00 +0000 Vanessa ee81a644-6ddf-17f6-99a3-9076d7fa6d4a Started 27 OctoberFinished 2 November

This book took a while to get into. I hadn't read any others, nor had I seen any of the TV programmes - which I understand may have been a good thing. Once the story got going I really enjoyed it. Of course I enjoyed Michael Kitchen's narration, as his is a voice and delivery that I have liked for years.

The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down (audiobook)By Haemin SunimNarrated by Sean Pratt

Started 2 NovemberFinished 3 November

When I say "finished", this is a book I will return to many times, I think. It is a mixture of short tales/talks and little nuggets of wisdom. I listened to it in one sitting, but I will go back to it and study the content more closely, as certain parts really touched me. I'm not surprised, as I have long had an interest in Eastern philosophies, such as Buddhism and the Tao. This book is quite practical and doesn't confine itself to Buddhism; it refers to the Bible and other religions. It encompasses a lot of the "mindfulness" trends; something I very much need to incorporate into my life.

The Last CatharBy Kate Riley

Started 1 NovemberFinished 6 November

This book was shorter than I expected, and seemed to me to be similarly light of plot. It told the tale of one of the last of the Cathar faith, a woman entrusted with the legendary treasure. Part of it was told in retrospect, part in the current time, when she cared for an injured young man. I think I was expecting more of an air of mystery than I got, so overall I found the book a little disappointing. There was also a rather random reference to 1944 thrown in, the significance of which completely escaped me.

The Night of the MothsBy Riccardo Bruni

Started 6 NovemberFinished 11 November

Finally, I got through a Kindle First in the month I acquired it! I enjoyed this story, about a man who returns to a town to sell his parents' house. When he used to visit the town, 10 years earlier, he became involved with a girl who was murdered. The story is told partly through the girl's eyes and partly in the third person. I have read some reviews which didn't like the prose style, or the switch between the narration styles. I can't say I felt the need to analyse the sentence structure, so it must not have bothered me that much. Whatever the grammatical errors/flaws, they worked in context and, as a simple novel, that's ok with me. I didn't find anything particularly memorable about the book, but it was an entertaining enough read.

Dead LagoonBy Michael DibdinNarrated by Cameron Stewart

Started 4 NovemberFinished 8 November

Another in the series of books about the Italian police officer Aurelio Zen. I think I enjoyed this more than the first one I read. Possibly I have become attuned to the style and am getting to know the main character. This one certainly kept me listening. It evoked Venice well, in my opinion, which generally means showing it as it is, not simply enthusing about its glory, taking a tourist's view. This book also depicts the impression I had of Venice when I visited: faded glory, dampness and decay, as well as all the famous locations. The narration was excellent. Cameron Stewart is on my list of top audiobook voices.

Origin (audiobook)By Dan BrownNarrated by Paul Michael

Started 10 NovemberFinished 17 November

Ok, I weakened. Yes, I know Dan Brown's books are fantastically popular and, as a result, picked to pieces and derided by lots of people. Hey, they are just an entertaining read (listen). I'm not all that impressed by the narration, but that's mainly a personal preference, as a Brit; I found the accent a little more pronounced that I tend to like from an American. Not to the point of not enjoying the story though. Overall, an enjoyable book, although I did lose interest slightly towards the end, as it seemed that the last hour of listening didn't add much to the story.

Jane Austen At Home (audiobook)By Lucy WorsleyNarrated by Ruth Redman

Started 17 NovemberFinished 21 November

I enjoyed this. I wasn't sure I would, although I have enjoyed Lucy Worsley's TV programmes - I was unsure how I would take to an audiobook on an historical topic. The information was well presented, and, for me at least, avoided becoming dull. Despite the carefully constructed image of Jane Austen put to the public by her family, this book manages to look behind the facade and puts together Jane's life. Although I do enjoy Jane Austen's novels, I knew very little about her life, so this was very informative. It covered her novels, too, showing how real events may have had an effect on the stories and portrayed an author with a well-developed sense of irony and a dry wit. I think I should have liked Jane Austen,

Nothing in the last week, as I started listening to Neal Stephenson's "Cryptonomicon". That will take me a while…

]]>
Yes
October Books https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2017/11/01/october-books Wed, 01 Nov 2017 16:10:00 +0000 Vanessa 1210f63f-a86b-d20b-f2e6-0bf5c7233486 This month has been another one devoted to audiobooks. I have been rather tired, to be honest, and curling up with puzzles/drawing while listening to a book has proven to be soothing and relaxing. I have started some kindle books, just not finished them. I am reading a non-fiction history of the Templars and a novel about the Cathars. I'll get through them at some point!

Outlander (audiobook)By Diana GabaldonNarrated by Davina Porter

Started 10 OctoberFinished 13 October

I read this book many years ago and loved it, so have read all the subsequent books in the series. I also watched the TV adaptation, which was almost as good as I had hoped. I decided to re-purchase the books on Kindle and with them, the audiobook. I really enjoyed listening to the story. The narrator does a good job - these books are pretty epic, with this one coming in at about 32 hours, which is the shortest of them. One of the later ones clocks in at 57 hours!

Amnesia (audiobook)By Michael RidpathNarrated by Sean Barrett

Started 14 OctoberFinished 18 October

I enjoyed Michael Ridpath's series set in Iceland so thought I might try another of his books. This was good; the plot developed nicely and intrigue was maintained. I felt a little less involved with the characters than I did in the Fire and Ice series. Nothing wrong with them, but I just didn't find myself warming to them particularly.

La Belle Sauvage (audiobook)By Philip PullmanNarrated by Michael Sheen

Started 20 OctoberFinished 27 October

Excellent, as one expects of Philip Pullman. A worthy successor to the His Dark Materials trilogy, and I look forward to the next book. The narration is the best I've heard yet, but then, no more than might be expected from Michael Sheen.

This book is set when Lyra is a baby and tells of a young lad who ends up having to look after her, rescuing her from danger. It starts fairly slowly, but then picks up pace and is a riveting ride.

Dragonfly in Amber (audiobook)By Diana GabaldonNarrated by Davina Porter

Started 19 OctoberFinished 27 October

Like slipping into a cosy pair of pyjamas. I have read all these novels, and watched the tv series. I listen to these while working, as they are good company. I feel I am hearing the tale of what old friends have been up to. I loved the books; I love the epic story and the audio versions are just as good, if not better, than the written word.

]]>
Yes
September Books https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2017/10/01/september-books Sun, 01 Oct 2017 12:03:00 +0000 Vanessa 2d4d9182-ff97-fd56-b4e5-99a100eb9a86 Apparently September was the month of the audiobook! Still, they have kept me company during some particularly lonely times.

A Fragile ThingBy Kevin Wignall (audiobook)Read by Scott MerrimanStarted 27 AugustFinished 2 September

I really enjoyed this, more than I did "The Hunter's Prayer". The story here was more family-based, with the main character being a very successful financier who deals with shady clients - although that isn't what the main plotline focuses on. The story held a few surprises and was a very satisfying listen.

The Liberation (audiobook)By Kate FurnivallRead by Imogen ChurchStarted 2 SeptemberFinished 6 September

I loved this audiobook. It was beautifully, lyrically read and the story was intriguing; it certainly held my attention. I read some reviews which said that the book was over-long for the story, but it didn't seem that way to me. I savoured every little detail. I read a very powerful book recently which detailed some of the events in Italy during WWII ("Beneath A Scarlet Sky" by Mark Sullivan), so it was interesting to read another novel set in the same time period, as it's something I know very little about. I enjoyed the twists of the plot and I also wallowed in the setting. I want aware of any particular description of the scenery, but I was left with a very clear sense of Sorrento and Naples. The author managed to evoke the atmosphere without my having noticed. Normally I am very alert to passages describing scenery, or characters, as often I quickly find them tedious. Not so with this book. It really was the audio equivalent of curling up in a comfy armchair wrapped in a fluffy blanket, where one can sink into the world of the novel.

Closed Circles (audiobook)By Viveca StenRead by Angela DaweStarted 7 SeptemberFinished 9 September

This is the second in a series of books set in and around Sandhamn, an island in the Stockholm archipelago. I enjoyed the first one and I also enjoyed this one. I wasn't as keen on the narration though. It seemed to be a bit rushed - and this from someone who talks very quickly herself! That combined with the American accent caused me to struggle a little with following the thread at the start. I did get used to it, which is just as well, because I have the third book next in my queue!

Guiltless (audiobook)By Viveca StenRead by Angela DaweStarted 10 SeptemberFinished 13 September

The third Sandhamn novel in the series and again, thoroughly enjoyable. As in the previous novel, I wasn't all that keen on the narration, but it was ok. I suspect the sound quality wasn't ideal and made a slight sibilance more prominent.

Conclave (audiobook)By Robert HarrisRead by Roy McmillanStarted 14 SeptemberFinished 20 September

The narration was excellent, but then I am always going to be more attuned to a British accent, so I'm biased.

I did enjoy this book. I have often drifted away from Robert Harris books, as they haven't grabbed my attention. Similarly, this one started slowly, and I wondered how a whole novel could be built around the vote for a new Pope. Well, it can, and the story was fascinating. A few surprises and twists along the way, and quite an ending! The fact this was an audiobook may have helped me get into the story, as there was no harm in letting it run, whereas a printed book may well have been discarded as a perceived waste of time. Obviously I rarely simply listen to an audiobook, I am usually doing something else at the same time.

The Silk Road (audiobook)By Peter FrankopanRead by Laurence KennedyStarted 21 SeptemberFinished 24 September

This was a long book to get through, although a very interesting one. On the whole the narration was good, although some of the sentences were rather long and peppered with subordinate clauses, which interrupted the flow a little. The narrator occasionally hesitated with his delivery. I guess that's the occasional pitfall with an audio version of a book like this.

The book starts with a history of the middle east and then moves through history to more recent times. It does have "a new history of the world" in its title and it is that; dealing with the last few centuries very much from the non-western viewpoint. It discusses the decisions made by various western countries and the impact these have had on the middle east, leading to the situation we are now in, which is not good. I did get a little bored around the second world war, but then became more interested as we moved into the later years of the twentieth century. It certainly put this into context for me. The writing was a little dense in places, but never too convoluted that it didn't make sense. For a history book it was an interesting read, not at all dry.

Thin Air (audiobook)By Ann CleevesRead by Kenny BlythStarted 25 SeptemberFinished 27 September

I decided I would try an Ann Cleeves novel, as I enjoyed the"Shetland" tv series. I wasn't disappointed, this is a competent police drama, probably made more enjoyable because I was already familiar with the main characters.

Cold Earth (audiobook)By Ann CleevesRead by Kenny BlythStarted 28 SeptemberFinished 30 September

The latest book in the "Shetland" series. Enjoyable, decent storyline, familiar characters again. These books are not outstanding, but great background listening.

]]>
Yes
August Books https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2017/09/02/august-books Sat, 02 Sep 2017 21:15:00 +0000 Vanessa 0060530f-d98f-128c-6895-e1d022c74d60 A fairly respectable number of books in August, no doubt assisted by my new-found liking for audiobooks. Slighly hampered by a bereavement, but whereas I haven't wanted to read, I have been quite happy to listen.

Paradise Valleyby CJ BoxStarted 1 AugustFinished 10 August

For once not a Joe Pickett novel, but just as enjoyable. Not many of CJ Box's books have disappointed me and this certainly didn't. The descriptions of the countryside are very evocative, something that I always appreciate and find very calming, even in the midst of a thrilling plot. I hadn't read the earlier books in this series, but it didn't matter: I want aware there had been when reading.

The X-Files Cold Cases (audio dramatisation)

I picked this for my August Audible allowance. Yes, I'm a big fan of the TV series, so I was likely to enjoy this, which I did. I would agree with some of the reviews which said that the acting from the main characters was a bit wooden at times: that of David Duchovny particularly. Maybe his style just doesn't translate that well to audio-only. It was great to get back into the X-files world and all the main characters were there, including my favourite, Walter Skinner. Mitch Pileggi has a wonderful voice, I could listen to him for hours!

Bryant & May: Wild Chamber (audiobook)by Christopher FowlerRead by Tim GoodmanStarted 10 AugustFinished 15 August

Good, as always. The most recent Bryant and May. Rambling at times, but then so is Mr Bryant. These are stories to savour rather than rush. They unfold gently and I find the audiobooks quite transport me into the world of the Peculiar Crimes Unit.

The Hunter's Prayer (audiobook)by Kevin WignallRead by Karen CassStarted 15 AugustFinished 15 August

I like Kevin Wignall's books and I very much enjoyed this one - I listened to it in one sitting! I felt the ending was a little unsatisfactory, most likely because it wasn't what I expected. For the most part, it was tense, surprising and an interesting study of two people on different paths in life.

The Fountain of Daphneby William Gordon (Bill Kitson)Started 16 AugustFinished 20 August

Enjoyable, but within a few pages a man and a woman have been introduced to the reader and I'm thinking "are they going to end up getting together ". I don't want to spoil the ending, so suffice to say I enjoyed the story. It was, perhaps, a little predictable, slightly grown-up Mills & Boon, but I was interested in the characters and the setting was beautifully described. That and the book was sold in aid of charity.

The Traitor's Storyby Kevin Wignall (audiobook)Read by Simon VanceStarted 20 AugustFinished 20 August

A day in bed thanks to illness got me through the whole of this book. I enjoyed it, as I do most of Kevin Wignall's books. A well-paced story, switching between the past and the present, drawing the threads together well. Narration was good, too. Simon Vance has a very pleasant voice and he made the various characters stand out just enough.

The Mysterious Mr Quinnby Agatha Christie (audiobook)read by Hugh FraserStarted 26 AugustFinished 27 August

One of my favourite novels, so I was happy to see it on offer with Audible. I passed some relaxing hours enjoying the tales of Mr Satterthwaite's encounters with Mr Harley Quinn. For me, the stories never get old. Can't go too far wrong with Hugh Fraser as a reader, either.

]]>
Yes
Life https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2017/08/29/life Tue, 29 Aug 2017 23:30:00 +0000 Vanessa efd0b818-534f-51f9-dd0c-c0e45fa87f60 Sometimes it's hard, this living thing.

This week is particularly hard. It was excruciatingly so three years ago yesterday, when we were told that my lovely Mum had died. It will be heartbreakingly so tomorrow, at my Dad's funeral. Then, again, ten days later, on his birthday. Today is the in-the-middle day. Final arrangements made, my best friend has arrived, my brother and his family are nearby and, yet, if I could not have tomorrow, I would. I also know that it won't be as bad as I think it will be; I found that at Mum's funeral. I also know that it will "help", certainly in the future, if not immediately.

Actually I have realised it's after midnight now, so it's no longer the in-the-middle day, which it was when I started writing. Although, my Dad was always happy to point out that in summertime, "afternoon" really started at 1pm, not 12pm. So, using that logic, is it currently still Tuesday, until 1am? I don't know. The timestamp on this site's admin panel says 23:30, so maybe I'll go with that and you can ignore this paragraph.

Undoubtedly I am slightly protected from the most raw of emotions by the medication I am still taking as a result of the effect on me of my mother's passing. The experience has been different this time, as I cared for Dad at his home (with masses of help from the district nursing team, a local care firm and the truly wonderful Marie Curie nurses). I was there, holding his hand and talking to him as he slipped away and I'm glad I was. I wish it hadn't had to happen, naturally, but I did the best I could and now I have to find the courage to move on. Slowly. Day by day. I feel I have to reappraise my place in the world, as I now feel alone in it. My brother has his own family, which, I'm sure, is a great comfort and also a distraction. I don't have that and there have been a number of days recently when getting out of bed has seemed very overrated. That should pass, in time, but I know, too, that things will never be the same again. Which may, in some way, turn out to be a good thing, or at least not such a bad thing. A voyage somewhat into the unknown, but one that we all have to embark upon at some point in our lives.

]]>
Yes
July Books https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2017/08/07/july-books Mon, 07 Aug 2017 20:59:00 +0000 Vanessa 96d2adbf-7aef-833f-4437-e00efa864113 July has been a better month, partly because I have started listening to some audiobooks, which is something I can do whilst working - to a point.

Silent as the Graveby Bill KitsonStarted 31 MayFinished 14 July

This book isn't so long, or tedious, that it took me six weeks to get through it; rather I haven't been in the mood for reading, for personal reasons.

This book is the first in a series called "The Eden House Mysteries" and I have more of them queued up. The author is a friend of a friend and on the strength of this book, the recommendation was quite appropriate. I found this book most enjoyable and a decent thriller.

Holy Islandby L J RossStarted 18 JulyFinished 20 July

Narration by Jonathan Keeble

I listened to this, rather than read it. The narration was fine and overall the book was ok. I found it a little clichéd, with rather stereotypical characters, so I'm not sure I will read any more in the series. Parts of the story seemed rather far-fetched, and, in that respect it wasn't the way I expected a story set on Lindisfarne to develop, so for that very reason it jarred a little with me.

Stillhouse Lakeby Rachel CaineStarted 17 JulyFinished 22 July

This was June's Kindle first, so I'm playing catch-up. The story starts with quite a jolt. The main character's confusion and then shock/horror were conveyed rather well. Then the novel gives the reader a good glimpse into the world of the main character: always on the move, to avoid the repercussions of what her ex-husband did. The author conveys that claustrophobic existence well and then things ramp up. The reader is carried along on the journey. Yes, maybe there are some flaws in the book, but really it's a very good thriller which I enjoyed. I have pre-ordered the sequel.

Strange Tideby Christopher FowlerStarted 18 JulyFinished 27 July

Narration by Tim Goodman

Another audiobook and another in the Bryant and May series. Always good books, but I didn't feel this was one of the best. Others I would read again, but not this one. I enjoyed it though, and the narration was good.

Little Boy Foundby L K FoxStarted 25 JulyFinished 30 July

This is a very different style of book from the Bryant and May series - yes L K Fox is a pseudonym used by Christopher Fowler for this book. It's good, although I'm not sure I liked the ending. That said, I'm not sure I was supposed to. The story is told by two different people. Well, really they are relating their own stories, which, as might be expected, cross over later in the novel. Actually, they cross over sooner, but that isn't apparent until much later on. It's an intriguing tale and I didn't catch on to a few things until perhaps later then I was meant to. It was a mystery carefully unwrapped by the author. A good read and I look forward to more in this style by one of my favourite authors.

Nothing Gold Can Stayby Dana StabenowStarted 27 JulyFinished 31 July

Narrated by Marguerite Gavin

I generally enjoy Dana Stabenow's books set in Alaska and this was no exception. It is the third (of four) in the Liam Cunningham series. Another decent thriller which develops the main characters a little more. Stabenow's style is simple and engaging. These are as good to listen to as they are to read; the narrator differentiates between characters well and really brings the story to life.

]]>
Yes
New Pens https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2017/07/14/new-pens Fri, 14 Jul 2017 16:14:00 +0000 Vanessa e56e68ff-f119-aa7b-20a5-2e332849a630 What else, other than books read, of which there were none in June. I'm on a go-slow at the moment, as life is a bit hectic. I have also signed up to Audible, so there may even be books listened to in future.

Amazon Prime day came, along with a very good price on a Waterman Carène in black and gold. With that nib. First impressions are that this pen is gorgeous. Is it £150-plus gorgeous; I don't know. It is certainly worth the £70 it was in the sale. It came with a medium nib, which is a little fat for me, but really this pen is crying out to make a statement. It looks glossy and sleek, then the cap comes off (it clicks in place with a nice, solid noise) and there is that inlaid nib. Just a little bit ostentatious. For someone whose main pen was a Parker 45 for many years, the open nibs seemed a bit "out there". As for this one, it's showy and gorgeous. It also writes beautifully. I can see myself pulling this out in a posh meeting (not that I go to many) and feeling just a teeny bit superior. Currently it has J Herbin Poussière de Lune in it; yesterday it had Kensington Blue. I'm unsure what will be its happy ink at the moment, possibly one I don't yet have. Maybe even one with sheen, to make the most of that juicy nib…

My other dilemma was the gold nib. Which hand? I don't mind switching writing hand with a steel nib, but I tend to stick to one hand only for a gold nib. The right won this pen; it seems to be slightly smoother when written with the right hand. It joins my Parker 45 there, whereas the left hand gets to use both my Pilot Capless pens.

IMG_1645.JPG

Of course, the day after finding this bargain, I came across the TWSBI Vac 700R for £16 less than I had seen it for in other places. I have a Vac Mini, which I like, but quite fancied the full-size one, even if only for the ink capacity. However, I didn't fancy it £75-worth, so held off. This, too, has Poussière de Lune in it - I had it to hand. Again I'm not sure it will stay inked with this, although it probably will. (It will for a while, thanks to a large capacity and extra-fine nib). I have to say, along with, I suspect, a lot of other people, I find the matte clip somewhat incongruous and irritating. That said, when I'm using the pen it doesn't matter, as the cap is on the desk. Otherwise, the pen is most useable. The nib is pretty smooth, unlike some I have tried. I hope this will be a decent workhorse. No doubt time will tell.

]]>
Yes
May Books https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2017/06/11/may-books Sun, 11 Jun 2017 14:26:00 +0000 Vanessa 39e33517-092e-6890-7d93-1b406d06318b Another fairly poor effort by me in May. I'm struggling with insomnia and am to have lost my reading mojo again; apparently I'd rather lie around and fret than lose myself in a good book.

Vicious Circle by CJ BoxStarted 24 AprilFinished 7 May

As ever, a good read, about familiar characters. This latest Joe Pickett novel picked up on a thread from earlier novels, but if you haven't read the earlier books, that doesn't matter. I always enjoy CJ Box's books, particularly ones set in the wide open spaces and mountains of the US. I find the depiction of that environment soothing.

Big Little Lies by Liane MoriartyStarted 8 May 2017Finished 30 May 2017

I enjoyed the majority of this book. It was an entertaining tale of families in a nice area of Australia. It was clear that the narrative was leading up to an event, as there were interjections from characters from after the event. Equally it was clear that a death was involved. I didn't guess who and I didn't guess why. Unfortunately, once the book reached that point, it then seemed to end quickly, in contrast to the slower build-up. It left me feeling like "oh, it's over then". All resolved a bit too quickly and neatly.

]]>
Yes
The value of content https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2017/05/09/the-value-of-content Tue, 09 May 2017 09:34:00 +0000 Vanessa 1fc336ac-b9ad-c133-e73c-19c66ebf0d21 Last week I finally got round to making a donation to a podcast that I enjoy and listen to regularly, "No Agenda". Yes, it's controversial and yes, I don't always agree with what is discussed on the show and it is rather US-centric, but it does make me think about the spin that is put on any news disseminated nowadays. The podcast has no sponsors; it is funded by listeners, so is able to maintain a level of independence. I decided this was worth some of my money, so I donated. I was very fortunate to be the only person donating at a certain level, so got an executive producer credit. At some point I will donate again, as long as I keep listening to the show.

Many people have written on the subject of getting things for free, particularly on the Internet, so, unfortunately, here is more of the same. Nothing new, just my thoughts on the matter - and how my view has changed in recent years.

Like a lot of people, I used to think it was absolutely fine to have information and/or entertainment available for free on the internet. I grew up before the internet was even a thing, so I have seen it grow from an entertaining diversion, to the all-pervasive behemoth it is today. I think there was a time, somewhere along the way, where information was available as a public service, intended to help and inform. That is, largely, no longer the case. I have also matured and become disillusioned with a lot of things in the world. One of these is the lack of truthfulness (I don't go so far as to say it's a lack of basic honesty). Questions asked of politicians are evaded, with no straight answers given. People are generally lied to by their elected representatives, yet nobody seems to hold them to account. Gradually I have become more aware of the amount of manipulation that we are being subjected to all the time; in politics and in our daily lives. I sometimes wonder if any truth is written/spoken by the media nowadays. Certainly the news programmes in the UK do far more than present the facts. There is always someone who explains the story, or pontificates on the impact, or what might happen as a result. Me, I generally just want the facts on the news; if I want to hear dissection and discussion, I will tune in to one of the magazine programmes.

I digress, though, as the main reason for starting this post was to put down in writing some of my feelings about being manipulated and "owned" by big corporations. As I get involved in more social media I become aware of the amount of data that is collected and used. For example, I understood that Facebook would collect data about what I liked, who I followed what I posted. It took a while for me to realise that it tracked what I did outside the app. Adverts appear on Facebook related to things I have browsed for in Safari. That unnerved me more than a little and I don't like it at all, but I still have my Facebook account, because it's a convenient way to keep in touch with people. However, I don't post a great deal. I joined Twitter before Facebook and enjoyed it, which I still do. I use a third party app, which makes the experience a little better, but it is still a shouty place, which exists to serve up ads (that I don't see).

As a result of all this, I mostly interact on 10centuries.org, which is a platform run by one man (and his dog). He hosts my blogs, runs a social media element and is developing more facets to the service. I pay for this (not a lot) and because I pay, I am the client. People have said: "if you aren't paying for the product, you are the product" and this is so very true. Over the last few years I have all but abandoned my Wordpress blog, along with some other free services. I'll admit to using Instagram, though, as I enjoy it. I have moved to paid services for rss feeds (Newsblur) and for saving links (Pinboard). I have also been looking into the Indieweb more and more recently, although I don't really understand it. The way I see it, the only way I can really own my data is by self-hosting, which is something I don't have the time or skills to do. For now, I will be content with paying for hosting, both on 10C and, more recently, micro.blog. This is clearly a journey I am on, with the learning that accompanies it. To that end, I am grateful for all the advice and assistance I receive from people far more experienced in the web than I.

]]>
Yes
April Books https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2017/05/03/april-books Wed, 03 May 2017 21:50:00 +0000 Vanessa 49a42d32-3221-1be8-250b-1101cfbfd49a I downloaded this book as my March Kindle First choice. I didn't really expect to enjoy this, to be honest this; a novel set between depression-era America and the Soviet Union. Consequently I was very pleasantly surprised, as I thoroughly enjoyed it. In fairness, it wasn't a fun book, as it was quite stark and brutal, but it was an epic-feeling story.

I hadn't known that many Americans fled the US in the Depression era, in search of a worker's paradise in the USSR. I also have no idea how accurate the tale is, but, for me, it painted a vivid picture of the hopes of the immigrants, the brutality of the Soviet regime and how these hopes soon faded. In addition it had plenty of plot twists, so all in all, a book I would recommend.

Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark SullivanStarted 9 AprilFinished 23 April

This book is based on a true story. It tells the tale of a young Italian, Pino Lella, during the second world war; from escaping the Nazis in Milan, through helping Jews to reach Switzerland by guiding them through the mountains, ending up enlisting at the age of 18, and becoming the driver of a senior officer in the German army, during which time he spied for the Allies. A truly fascinating story and well written. This, too, is a period in history I didn't know much about. Plenty of books are written about Germany, France, the UK and other countries during the war, but I haven't come across much about Italy.

What was particularly nice was the author's notes at the end, in which he describes how he came to tell the tale, along with updates on the fates of the main characters during the remainder of their lives. Another book I thoroughly enjoyed and also felt that I learned from.

]]>
Yes
March Books https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2017/04/01/march-books Sat, 01 Apr 2017 23:24:00 +0000 Vanessa 81d6dd05-9beb-a825-5f94-d3a399712eed Only two completed books in March. Yet again, life got in the way. Despite having a week off work, I didn't get much reading done; most of my time was taken up ferrying my father to his radiotherapy appointments. I listened to plenty of music, though and maybe some of my sleepless nights would have been better spent reading, but if the mind doesn't want to escape into a novel, it won't go.

In Farleigh Field by Rhys Bowen

Started 21 FebruaryFinished 12 March

February's Kindle First. I enjoyed this novel. It is set during WW2 & I have to say it probably wasn't what I expected. Firstly, I assumed the author was male, which turns out not to be the case. Secondly, probably as a result of the first, I assumed that the story would be more of a mystery novel. It contains a mystery, sure, but it reads more like a romance novel. That's not necessarily a bad thing, just a bit of a surprise.

Once I got used to the story, I found it easy to read. It was just about plausible, if somewhat almost quaint at times. I doubt I'd seek out other books by this author - a bit light for my taste.

Mystery Man by John Dickinson

Started 12 MarchFinished 21 March

I didn't know what to expect with this book, as the title implies. I felt as confused as the main character for some time . I thought "ah-ha", the writer breaking the fourth wall, as it were, and interjecting his commentary on events. Or was it?

The novel centres around a man named Bentley, who ends up in Yorkshire, with no memory. The story is set in the Whitby area; a place no stranger to being a setting for gothic tales. That could be a clue in itself, although less so for me, as the author is a friend - my former primary school teacher, who was a very positive influence on me when I was young. To that end, the story is set fairly local to where I grew up, so I didn't make the association with the gothic as readily as someone else might. And no, the main character isn't a vampire.

Bentley receives kindness from the locals, falls in love and tries to find out who he is and about his past. Gradually his story unfolds and becomes quite shocking and slightly far-fetched, but intriguing enough to continue. Towards the end things take a very different turn and once again I was surprised, in a good way. Certainly an entertaining read and it kept me guessing.

]]>
Yes
February Books https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2017/03/12/february-books Sun, 12 Mar 2017 13:05:00 +0000 Vanessa 4dffa934-6126-c7b8-4b4c-b704ab69252a Only one book completed this month, which would be pretty dire, except that this is quite a long read. It also took me a while to settle in to the story. Not being Chinese, the whole setting was, well, "different". I did spend a while wondering how the story was going to develop into a science fiction novel, but it did and it is well worth persevering. This is the first in a trilogy and I look forward to reading the other two books, although I shall take a break between them, I think. I have long been a fan of epic space novel series, so this should be right up my street. Having said that, it is at times pretty bleak and I believe the last book might be even more so.

At the time of writing, I am still on February's Kindle First book, with March's unopened. In addition, a friend introduced me to the works of another author, so I have a queue of his books, plus I discovered my friend had written some books, so one of those is now in the queue (the others are for children).

I really need to escape into the world of the written word more. Life is a bit tense at the moment and when I feel like this I tend to stop reading, which is probably the opposite of what I should do.

]]>
Yes
Middle-aged rebel https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2017/02/10/middle-aged-rebel Fri, 10 Feb 2017 23:21:00 +0000 Vanessa 6bdc3bcc-fc2d-40e5-66f0-aa4467334ca2 Today I did something that, when I was younger, I swore I would never do; I got a tattoo. Go me!

It's a very simple one - a yin-yang symbol, on the inside of my right wrist, in a place that can be hidden by a long-sleeved top. For work, you see.

I have been thinking about this for some time now, and then I had a dream, in which I had this tattoo, so I realised the dream. I do have a leaning towards the philosophy of the Tao Te Ching, so having a permanent symbol I could look at easily made sense to me. I can now glance at my wrist and be reminded of the importance of balance in my life - an opportunity for a brief re-focus or a moment of meditation

The tattoo of this symbol is also, well, mostly, in remembrance of my Mum, who passed away 2 years, 5 months and 13 days ago (yes, I'm still counting). Those who know me, and who knew my Mum, would say: surely a Welsh/Celtic symbol of a some kind would be the thing to go with? Well, yes, however this tattoo reminds me of a holiday we had in Brussels, some 16 years ago now. We were wandering around and found ourselves outside what must have been a fairly upmarket jewellers. In a prominent place in their window was a yin-yang, made of the most stunning glass. One side was obsidian black, with a clear dot and the other was the reverse. Both the clear and black glass were very nearly perfect. The thing must have been 4" tall and around 8-10" diameter. We stared at that piece for ages; we were speechless in the face of its beauty. It was a shared moment, too, both delighting in the same thing. Now, a treasured memory,

]]>
Yes
The Guardian https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2017/02/04/the-guardian Sat, 04 Feb 2017 16:05:00 +0000 Vanessa 058acbcd-be4f-7f75-bf11-fd3920292e28 I have today taken out membership of The Guardian. I know, I'm not their normal demographic, being politically a little more to the right, usually. That said, "the right" as it is today doesn't represent my political views, either. Far from it. So, here I am, pretty much unrepresented by any political party in the UK.

Aside from all that, I have been making conscious decisions to support things that I think are worth it,as I am fortunate to be in a position where I can. I pay for the hosting of this blog which is an absolute bargain, as it includes multiple blogs, a social media feed, to-do lists and, at some point, a notes facility. All this from an independent provider. I have changed my RSS provider to Newsblur, a paid service, but one which does exactly what I want, at a reasonable price. This week I added Pinboard to my suite of subscriptions. I support a podcast network that I listen to a lot and I also support a blog I particularly enjoy. I hope to support another one, too, just waiting for an annual subscription rather than a monthly one. Currency conversion charges, what can I say…

To sum up, all this made me decide that I needed to support The Guardian. In a time when everything is owned by someone who wants to put their spin on things, playing to the fears and prejudices of one group or the other, I think I owe it to them to pay for what I read.

Plus, crosswords! Back in the day when I didn't have more work than I could possibly get through, a colleague and I used to do the Guardian crossword every day.

]]>
Yes
January Books https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2017/02/04/january-books Sat, 04 Feb 2017 12:32:00 +0000 Vanessa 910f2c26-4f4b-60dd-604a-c5cdcfa73312 Started 27 DecemberFinished 3 January

I enjoyed this more than I expected to. I started reading it a year or so ago, but gave up fairly quickly, as it plunged me into a world too unfamiliar and confusing. On the second attempt, however, I stuck with it and found it was worth the effort. It begins as rather a dystopian sci-fi novel, but evolves into more of a thriller/action novel, where the sci-fi elements seem to take second place behind the action. That or I grew accustomed to things.

The main premise is the power of words to persuade, beyond what we currently understand. The novel follows the story of two characters, one who is selected to train in the art of "persuasion" and one who, we learn, appears to be immune to these powers. The two stories come together as the book progresses. This didn't seem to me to be at all contrived and the storytelling was nicely paced, keeping me interested throughout.

The Winter Over by Matthew Iden

Started 4 JanuaryFinished 11 January

Ok, actually I finished this around 3am on 12 January, during one of my less successful slumber periods. When this came up on January's Kindle First list it was an easy decision for me; it is set in Antarctica, somewhere which fascinates me, as I'm sure it does many people.

A group of scientists and staff are about to see colleagues depart, leaving them there during the long months of perpetual darkness - the winter over period of the title. The base is newly-run by a private company. A body is found in the snow and things start to go wrong. It seems that some of the staff are possibly not as mentally stable as they ought to be to endure the dark months. As time passes it becomes clear that this was no accident…

I enjoyed this book, although I felt it rushed to the end slightly; a little more suspense would have been nice. Overall, it's a good read and more than a little thought-provoking.

Containment by Christian Cantrell

Started 12 JanuaryFinished 19 January

I wasn't sure quite what to expect with this book. I've had it for a while and never started it. On the whole, I enjoyed it. It's a good old-fashioned life in space tale, but with a twist. I grew up reading Asimov, Heinlein and the like, so this is my preferred type of science fiction. This novel centres around a group of human settlers on Venus, but all is not what it seems. As I read, I was looking forward to the end of the book, with, presumably, the final reveal. Unfortunately it just stopped. Yes, other characters were going to discover the truth - I assume. I was aware this is supposed to be the first book in a series so I read up about the second book and apparently that doesn't continue the story at all. I found myself with too many outstanding "why" and "what next" questions to be satisfied with this book. I enjoyed reading it very much, but I think the ending let it down, almost like the cliff-hanger end of a tv episode, only to find the next is about completely different characters. I may keep an eye on reviews, to see if the third book ties things together. As it stands, I doubt I'll get book two.

]]>
Yes
Every ending is a new beginning…    https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2017/01/13/every-ending-is-a-new-beginning    Fri, 13 Jan 2017 15:45:00 +0000 Vanessa 52ab6a70-9d3f-675c-ab40-8434b0187ebc Or so they say.  This morning my little corner of the internet was buzzing (sort of) with the announcement that App-dot-net (I won't put a link here, given the circumstances) would be closing down soon.  For those of us who have stuck around, this is it.  We have always known this day would come, since the announcement in May 2014 that there would be no further development from the owners and the network would be put into a form of hibernation, just ticking along. In the time since, people have stuck around, drifted back to Twitter, or found other places to hang out.  Gradually they have dropped their subscriptions down to the free tier – something I had planned to do at my next renewal, which is moot now as the lights will have gone out before then. Since joining ADN I have met quite a number of people who I enjoy chatting with online and I think a lot of us are still in touch on other social networks – failing all else, Twitter is still around.  I value the connections I have made using the service; my life has been much enrichd by the conversations we have had – and still continue to have.  People there have encouraged me to have a blog, have helped this n00b with setting up her domain records to point to her blog hosting and myriad other things. I even, at one point, dipped my toe into CSS, purely so I could replace a dark blue theme with a much nicer purple.  Easy, you say?  'Twas more than enough for me. For my part I mostly use 10 Centuries Social and I have this blog (plus a couple of others) hosted there.  I don't see that changing.  However, being part of the ADN community has allowed me to learn more about the internet in general (I was never really interested before, having grown up without it).  Not that I can profess to understand all that much, to be honest.  I occasionally consider using my Raspberry Pi as a dinky web server, just for a bit of fun, but pretty soon I come up against the need for some kind of dynamic IP service, which seems to cost rather too much for something that's just a bit of fun!  Still, I have some domains (some unused) and some blogs – baby steps. I have backed Manton Reece's Kickstarter for a decentralised social network and micro-blogging tool called micro.blog.  As much for the book as anything.  I think it means that I can post from my blog to his social network.  Mind you, I can publicise my blog posts at 10 Centuries, or Twitter even; I choose not to, as I doubt anyone would really want to read my ramblings.   I'll be interested to see what develops from this. It might see this blog site having more short posts to go over to his site, or I might utilise a different domain for that. I'm not entirely sure, to be honest.  I have kind of got used to this username, but I think I'd like this blog to remain as a home for longer pieces of writing – can I choose which posts go out into the world and which don't?   Unfortunately, having chosen this username on Twitter many years ago, I find that a lot of domain names aren't available for it, yet it's a username I have in a number of places.   I have Mydnyghtrose but I'd like to keep that more to the craft side of things. I could always use one of the domains I have that are actually in my own name.  That would be brave of me…  I can always pay to have a hosted service over at micro.blog – but as I already have one, why do that?  Much pondering to be done and probably advice to be sought from other people. I have dipped my toe into Mastodon and Pnut  recently as well. Suffice it to say that I am easy enough to find in other places on the web:- Hazardwarning on Twitter, Plurk, 10C, Mastodon and PnutMydnyghtRose on Instagram and Twitter

So, thanks ADN, it has been fun (although I shan't miss the constant auto-correct to AND).

]]>
Yes
December books https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2017/01/01/december-books Sun, 01 Jan 2017 16:21:00 +0000 Vanessa edcab231-0a34-97b6-96c7-1f2a0582a3d0 Started 2 DecemberFinished 15 December

I found myself irritated by this book from the start, purely because it is written in the third person, present tense. It just feels wrong to me. At times it felt like the book wasn't well edited, at least in the Kindle version."Harper isn't surprised to find it fairly empty when Harper walks in, shaking off her umbrella". Odd.That said, the book grew on me as I got further into it, despite the jarring use of present tense. The characters started to develop and become more familiar. However, the ending was a bit of a shock and let me feeling a bit cheated. It felt too soon in what, I assume, is to be series of books to have this kind of ending. Would I read more by this author? Probably not.

A Fatal Thaw by Diana Stabenow

Started 15 DecemberFinished 16 December

This is my third Dana Stabenow book and I do enjoy them. This is the second in a lengthy series centred around an Alaskan investigator. I might work through them all in time - I caught up with all the Joe Pickett series by C J Box, so there's no reason to suppose I won't do the same here.The depiction of life in Alaska doesn't pull any punches, Stabenow doesn't shy away from the less tourist-friendly aspects of life. Mind you, she doesn't do the natural beauty of Alaska any disservice, either.In this novel, one out of multiple murders turns out to have been committed by someone other than the main suspect. Our investigator figures it out early on and leads the reader to her conclusion, explaining why she had to take action. The final chapters depict a thrilling chase in the mountains.

So Sure of Death by Dana Stabenow

Started 17 DecemberFinished 27 December

This is the second book in the series centred around Liam Cunningham, a state trooper in Alaska. It builds on the relationships of the first book well and I wasn't able to guess whodunnit in either of the murders. Dana Stabenow's books are easy to read, but they are also decent enough thrillers to make me return to them when I want to go to a familiar place, with familiar characters.

As I reach the end of the year, it's time to review my progress over 2016. I have read a total of 33 books. Not bad, could do better. My worst months were January and May, when I read only one book. I don't know why this was the case in January, but in May I was away visiting friends for some of the time, so probably too busy to have early nights curled up with a book. My best month was March, during which I read five books. Most other months seem to result in two or three books read. It would be nice to get through more, but I don't want to make it a target to achieve, or put pressure on myself; that would destroy the whole point of reading for relaxation. That said, I have quite a backlog of unread books on my Kindle…

I think I will continue these monthly posts and who knows, I might get round to posting some more in 2017. I have plenty of ideas, I just seem to run out of time to implement them.

]]>
Yes
November Books https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2016/12/01/november-books Thu, 01 Dec 2016 15:04:00 +0000 Vanessa 8ccf94df-6bd9-1823-03b1-1498ba643cc9 This month started well, but after my second book I lost interest in reading again. I started a couple of books, but stopped each of them after a few pages. This loss of interest has coincided with an increase in insomnia and general anxiety symptoms. At least I have a barometer for how I'm feeling: as long as I'm happy to end my day with my nose in a book, then I'm doing ok. Let's see if I can pick things up again in December.

Ocean of Storms by Christopher Mari & Jeremy K Brown

Started 1 NovemberFinished 4 November

This was my choice of book from the November Kindle First program. I am generally wary of books which list two authors, but the story synopsis intrigued me.

The first part contained short, time-stamped sections, jumping between parts of the story. It did a good job of setting the scene, but felt a little disjointed - the sections could have been longer. However, it helped to convey the sense of urgency though.

Once the story settled in, it was more evenly paced, moving from space, back to earth & then it became a more traditional adventure story. By no means a classic, but fun.

Poisonfeather by Matthew Fitzsimmons

Started 4 NovemberFinished 13 November

I don't think I enjoyed this as much as the first book in the series, but it was still entertaining. It became more entertaining as it went along, but the sub-plot seemed to overtake the main plot, which left me feeling slightly unsatisfied. I think somewhere along the line I missed the point, somehow.

]]>
Yes
Conklin All-American https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2016/11/08/conklin-all-american Tue, 08 Nov 2016 17:01:00 +0000 Vanessa db0dfc18-9f99-2184-9714-145e750c0338 I'll admit it, I bought this pen on a whim. About a week ago I purchased my first Iroshizuku ink, the Fuyu-Gaki (Winter Persimmon). I figured it would be warming and cheery in these Autumn days and I was correct. I loaded up my TWSBI Eco with it, partly for the 1.1mm stub to give the ink a chance to shine, but also because it's a demonstrator. Yes, the ink did look lovely, sloshing around in the barrel and it contrasted nicely with the black of the Eco. However, it's not my favourite pen/nib, plus it didn't match, so I started looking around.

Unfortunately (for my bank balance), I rather like having inks tone with my pens. Here are a few of my chosen combinations.

• Black Parker 45 - Parker black ink• Caribbean Green Parker 61 - Diamine Misty blue• Pelikan M205 amethyst - Diamine Bilberry• Edison Collier antique marble - J Herbin Lie de Thé• Pilot Décimo in pale purple - Diamine Twilight• Pilot Capless carbonesque blue - Cult Pens Deep Dark Blue• Kaweco Ice Sport orange - Diamine Chocolate Brown. However, this pen lives with my Roterfaden Taschenbegleiter, which is brown outside and orange inside. Well, anyway, I think the two go well together.

I knew I could find an orange pen - the Pilot Capless Trend, one of the Deltas, but ££ ouch and £££ ouch. I hadn't really noticed the Conklin All-American before. I was aware of the Durograph, which hadn't made me stop and look twice, to be honest. Then, in my searches for "orange fountain pen" this one appeared. It looked nice, the price was pretty reasonable (around £75 in the UK), furthermore it looked to be a good size. It appeared to be similar in size to my beloved Edison Collier and that proved to be correct. The Conklin is slightly fatter and the Edison sightly longer. Otherwise, very similar.

P1000588.JPG

The Conklin was duly ordered at the weekend from Cult Pens and it arrived today.

The box is very smart, with a nice soft cushion for the pen, in a slightly suede-type fabric. The pen comes with a converter, plus a couple of short standard cartridges to get you started. I believe the converter screws in, but I haven't taken it out to check. Also, the pen can take full-size cartridges, but again I haven't checked. Unlike some pens, this has metal parts, so no eye-droppering (not that I do that).

P1000582.JPG

I ordered a medium nib, as I didn't want anything too fine, the better to show off the ink. At this price point I expected a decent nib and I got one that is more than decent. The nib is quite distinctive, with its crescent-shaped breather hole.

P1000587.JPG

It's glassy smooth, which I know some people won't like, but it is really nice. Ink flow seems fine right out of the box. So far, I am very pleased with this purchase and I would recommend the pen to anyone who wants a larger pen, but doesn't perhaps want to spend too much. It represents pretty good value for money. The All-American is also available in Old Glory, Tortoiseshell and Yellowstone colourways, should bright orange not really be your thing.

The pen has gone straight in my Lihit Labs Smart Fit pen wallet, along with my Parker 45, my purple TWSBI AL, light purple Pilot Decimo, my Edison Collier and my Pelikan M205. Basically, the pens I like to keep close at hand. My main everyday pens, a Pilot Capless Carbonesque Blue and a TWSBI 580 live with my travellers-style notebook.

]]>
Yes
October Books https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2016/11/02/october-books Wed, 02 Nov 2016 14:10:00 +0000 Vanessa c9b9358b-81b4-7c14-5a2a-b3d1a8faa3bf Started 4 OctoberFinished 6 October

A quick read, and entertaining. Slightly clichéd in places, but a rollercoaster ride with a couple of twists I really didn't expect. I like a thriller that surprises me, and this did. The book starts near the denouement (or at least what you think might be) and then leads up to that point. Except that what you expect to happen, doesn't, followed by a final twist at the end. A better book then I expected, to be honest.

A Taste For War by Jack McDevitt

Started 6 OctoberFinished 27 October

I picked up this book on the recommendation of some friends on social media. It's the first in a series about Alex Benedict, an antiquities dealer who, in this case, gets involved in the mystery surrounding an historic battle, missing people and a missing spaceship. The story is based in the future, with the main characters investigating events a few hundred years earlier, but still very much in our future. This is the kind of science fiction I enjoy. Nothing too fantasy-based, rather, it's a good story based in a different time. Having grown up on a diet of Asimov, Clarke and Heinlein, this book was very much to my taste. It started slowly and I had some doubts, but I was gradually drawn deeper into the story and the central mystery. I have a couple of other books in the series and I look forward to reading them. This is an author that is very definitely on my watch list.

The Girl In The Ice by Robert Bryndza

Started 28 OctoberFinished 30 October

I hadn't expected too much from this, although some of my friends on Facebook had "liked" the author's page. I picked this one up for £0.99 on Amazon, deciding to give it a go. There were a few proofing errors in the kindle version - "discrete" when it should have been "discreet", but not as many as in some books.I found this a quick read, although it did entail a few late nights, as I wanted to find out what happened in the next chapter. So, in my opinion, suitably paced for a thriller. Set in London, the locations were familiar to me and the plot had enough twists and turns to hold my interest, but not so many that it felt forced or implausible. Yes, it's the first in a series about a detective and, yes, it's a variation on the maverick cop theme, but the central character was sympathetically written and there was enough meat to the back story to make sense of her attitude. I enjoyed the book and another author goes on my "read more" list.

]]>
Yes
My Workflow https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2016/10/28/my-workflow Fri, 28 Oct 2016 09:53:00 +0000 Vanessa 2909c532-bd0f-40ed-682f-71d576b451d2 Recently I have been reviewing my workflow for both work and personal tasks.

A couple of years ago I tried the digital-only approach, which worked pretty well - for a time. I made notes on my ipad using Bamboo Paper and a stylus. Great, notes could be really temporary, erased and written over. However, this entailed a lot of zooming in & out on the page and really just didn't feel quite right to me. I stuck with it, though.

In addition to taking notes, I used Notability to annotate documents and make typed drafts/notes. I still use Notability, but not as extensively as I used to. I think it's a very capable app, but unfortunately it's not cross-platform, so restricts me to the iPad.

For general to-do lists and basic projects I used ToDoist. When it came out, it really impressed me, so I paid for a premium subscription, which got me labels, reminders and emailing tasks. Without a reminder option, a task app isn't a great deal of use.

To store stuff online I used Evernote. I also used Evernote to draft, and then publish, my blog posts, until something changed and Evernote proved to be more of an annoyance than a help. I paid for an Evernote subscription, too, having had a free trial for a while. I didn't need a lot of the features, but I liked the passcode lock on mobile devices, which was only available on a paid plan at the time.

Time passes… and my approach has altered. I think I was just never entirely comfortable being digital-only. Quite possibly this is as much an age thing as just a me thing. I tried out the Traveler's Notebook and it clicked with me. I was never an ardent Filofax user, even though I had several over the years. I never had an A5 one and it was while I was contemplating one of those that I came across the Traveler's Notebook. I fell in love with the flexibility of the system and my workflow reverted to a paper-based one. I have always found that I remember things better when I write them down. I found some online printable TN inserts that really worked for me, for my task lists and monthly planning. I also created my own week on one page calendar, printed it out and bound it into a booklet, which meant I had most things in one place.

I have been an Office 365 subscriber for a number of years and have seen the Onenote product improve significantly, so I started to use it, to see how it compared with Evernote. Generally, I prefer it, although I refuse to install Outlook just to use reminders. I didn't make much use of them in Evernote, but the approach to them in Onenote is annoying. I also found that the ToDoist reminders were a little unreliable and, to be honest, I never really liked their allegedly intuitive system. Nothing wrong with a calendar and repeat options, in my book.

Recently, Evernote announced a new pricing structure which represented a significant increase to me. I considered dropping down a tier, or going free, but the new device limit is unacceptable to me, removing the flexibility of the whole system. I use both Android, iOS and Windows, so these changes made Evernote an expensive option. Plus, it's still horribly green everywhere (not even a nice green). The upshot is that I will be ditching Evernote completely and going all-in on Onenote. It's still not quite as good as Evernote, but it's good enough and doesn't cost me extra. I am in the process of exporting all my notes and cross-checking for duplicates. Evernote won't be renewed, and the mobile apps will be deleted, although I may keep the desktop version for a while longer.

I will still use Notability and also iThoughts, where they are the best tools for the job.

After I found out about the Evernote situation it then turned out that the annual ToDoist subscription was going up £3. Not exactly unaffordable, but necessary? No. I was using the app less and less, thanks to my return to analogue. So that dropped to free, losing me labels, tasks by email, and reminders. In reality the only issue was the loss of reminders/alerts. I used the iOS Reminders app, but that necessitated my being in the vicinity of the iPad, which isn't always the case. Today I have reinstalled Google Keep on my phone, and downloaded the iOS app. I'll see how it goes, but hopefully it will be sufficient for my needs. If not, then a calendar appointment might work. More detailed/reference tasks are kept in my 10 Centuries account.

In summary, I have reverted to an analogue process, now in a new TN-style notebook from Tough-old-boots, backed up by a Leuchtturm A5 notebook for work projects, which is housed in my Roterfaden Taschenbeglieter. I have not renewed ToDoist (£21.99 saved) and I won't be paying for Evernote when that comes up for renewal (£44.99 saved). These are being replaced by paper + Google Keep and Onenote. The bonus is that I get to write things by hand more, using my beloved fountain pens.

]]>
Yes
This Proud And Savage Land https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2016/10/04/this-proud-and-savage-land Tue, 04 Oct 2016 20:58:00 +0000 Vanessa f1a30a55-06c1-8df2-1878-ca381eb853df Normally I write about the books I have read once a month. However, after writing about this one, I felt it deserved an entry of its own; partly because of its length, but also because of the impact it had on me.

In the 1960s Alexander Cordell wrote three books which became known as "The Mortymer Trilogy". I read these many years ago, at the suggestion of my mother. I had read "How Green Was My Valley" and she suggested what she believed to be a better recounting of life in Wales. She maintained that these books were closer to reality, based on the tales handed down in her family. I read and enjoyed them - and might read them again, now I have them on my Kindle. The paperbacks seem to have vanished in the intervening years, unfortunately. Actually, I had forgotten about them until just recently. A month or so ago I became interested in my family history. I found some research Mum had done, although not the family trees I carefully compiled as a teenager - still hunting for those.

I had always believed/assumed that my ancestors in the 19th century were coalminers. However, some of my research led to their job titles, as recorded in the census records of the time. My great-grandfather was listed in the 1871 census as a "tinman", at the age of 22. More I have yet to find out about him; with a name of David Bowen, it's not exactly uncommon. However, he and his wife had 12 children, so he must have survived for a while.

The story I have so far uncovered of my great-great-grandfather is possibly more illustrative of life in the eastern valleys of South Wales. His name was John Bowen. In the 1851 census he is listed as being 10 years old and his occupation is given as "drawing iron works". He was still a child, not even high school age! At that time he lived with his grandfather and had a brother, James, aged 13, who was a "catcher iron works" In the 1871 census John appears as a "puddler". I haven't been able to find out any more so far, though I have identified four children.

Clearly my family didn't work down the mines (although some did in later generations). Instead they worked in the iron industry, which was well established in Wales in the 19th century. I don't know for sure, but my family lived in Nantyglo, so I assume they worked at the Nantyglo ironworks.

Having discovered this, it reminded me of the Cordell books, so I went in search of them. I came across this book: "This Proud and Savage Land", written in the 1980s, as a prequel to the trilogy, so I settled down to read it. Cordell captures beautifully the cadence of the Welsh accent, and the idiom, in his writing. I heard the text in my head in a distinct Welsh accent, but it's an accent I am very familiar with. It's not an easy book to read, though. I guess it could be described as a Welsh "Grapes of Wrath". There's not much joy in the tale: it tells of the beginnings of the feud between the Mortimer family (wealthy, owners of ironworks, in league with the English) and the Mortymer family, which sprung from a bastard line. I found it both fascinating and heart-breaking, as I imagined my ancestors living in the abject poverty that is depicted, completely dependent on the good graces of the (English of course) masters at the ironworks. People starved, they froze to death. If they were lucky, they could afford to share a room in a worker's cottage, possibly upgrading to a whole cottage, depending on their job. Houses like that are still around in Wales: terraces, now extended and with indoor bathrooms, two rooms upstairs and two down. My Nan grew up in such a house, one of twelve children. As soon as you were old enough, out to work you went, or into service for the women, as there was a queue for your space in the bed. My Mum recalls top-and-tailing when she lived there during the second world war.

Immigration was an issue, too. Lots of ironworkers came from the north and a lot of Irish people had come over, to escape the famine, only to starve or freeze, homeless, in the Welsh valleys.

I found the book really drew my attention to the contrasts between then and now. Our concept of poverty is certainly relative, which is a good thing! And yet, there are vast swathes of people on the move at the moment, trying to escape famine, war, maltreatment; all the things I found myself thinking "how horrible" about when reading this book, set almost 200 years ago. A sobering thought that makes me wonder just how much humanity has progressed, if at all. We don't seem to in terms of basic compassion - and I include myself in that. Complacent in my relatively luxurious lifestyle.

Aside from the emotive aspect of this book, it also serves as a decent chronicle of social history. This and the later books document the birth of trade unionism in the UK, including the Rebecca Riots of the mid-1800s. Not the kind that calls people out on strike for yet more money, but the kind that wanted the workers to have enough money to eat, and for the lives of its members not to be worthless. Iron-making was a hazardous occupation, but health and safety barely even existed at the time. Life was cheap, always someone to take the place of a dead worker. The Welsh ironworkers were little more than slaves. The works owners ran the local shops and put prices up whenever they felt like it. They got rid of workers on a whim, reduced pay if orders fell and, yet, managed to get rich themselves.

All in all, this was a book I gained a lot from reading, even if it was difficult for me to read at times, but that is because I feel a personal connection to it. It is probably of limited interest to other readers, but it had a powerful impact on me and made me reflect on some of my views of the world - no bad thing.

]]>
Yes
September Books https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2016/10/02/september-books Sun, 02 Oct 2016 22:11:00 +0000 Vanessa f4a15a3c-5412-2fc0-4424-7c61ca176feb Started 1 SeptemberFinished 11 September

Another translation, and a good one. I enjoyed this and am likely to keep an eye out for subsequent stories in the series. It is quite clear that there will be more, as the novel ends in such a way as to leave the reader in no doubt. That's not to say it was an unsatisfactory ending; far from it, but there is more to come.

The story centres around Sigrid, a woman living in Scandinavia in the Viking era. She is actually a legendary queen of Sweden (Svea) - Sigrid the Haughty. She is mentioned in some sagas, but there seems to be debate about whether she was a real figure, or possibly an amalgamation of several women from that era. Sigrid is married off to King Erik of Sweden, to secure the future of her tribe; however, she falls for another man prior to her wedding, presenting doubt as to the paternity of her offspring. Sigrid is in constant danger and the story follows her determination to survive.

The novel pulls no punches and certainly doesn't present a romanticised view of 10th-century Sweden. There is plenty of graphic description of battles, of rape and brutality. That said, the story is told in a very matter-of-fact way, so these events aren't in any way glorified, nor do they seem gratuitous. Rather, they come across as a simple recounting of life as it was. The story started a little slowly, but it was worth staying with. There are some mystical elements, centred around the practises of the old religion and the struggle between belief in the old Nordic gods and Christianity plays a significant part in the tale.

Tier One by Brian Andrews & Jeffrey WilsonStarted 12 SeptemberFinished 19 September

Back to thrillers, although this is a military-based one, rather than a police procedural. It tells the story of an elite ops team and their leader. I believe it may be the first of many, and I might consider reading more of them. The story was well paced and kept me reading. I'll admit these aren't generally my preferred genre, but this was interesting, as the story didn't go where I expected. I read the Kindle version, so didn't realise that there was a glossary at the end, which would have helped my understanding a little, as the novel was rather acronym-heavy at times.

The Cross-Country Quilters by Jennifer ChiaveriniStarted 20 SeptemberFinished 23 September

Chronologically this is the third of the Elm Creek Quilt novels written, although not the third I have read. The novels are about quilters, and most are set around a quilting camp in America. Yes, the stories are quaint, and possibly slightly unrealistic, with their tales of women who find companionship through quilting. No gritty dramas here, just gentle depiction of life. To me, they represent an element of escapism, as well as something familiar to me. I don't go on quilting camps - from what I know, I suspect quilting is more popular in the US than here, although I have done some. I do recognise that friendship which grows when a group of people gather with a shared interest. Some of my closest friends where I live are ones I have met through joining a craft group.

This tale highlights a group who meet at the quilting camp, make friends, and decide to create a collaborative quilt. They each have issues to deal with in their lives and agree to start their quilt blocks only once they have taken steps to deal with their problems. The individual stories are woven together well and the ladies meet up the following year to finish the quilt. As with most of these books, it's a gentle, undemanding read, but well written.

]]>
Yes
Hooray for the humble cotton bud https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2016/09/06/hooray-for-the-humble-cotton-bud Tue, 06 Sep 2016 20:04:00 +0000 Vanessa 2bc2c26f-2329-3d19-7e79-faf32321fa89 After last week's visit to my craft group I found three huge bites across my upper back, just out of reach for a person with slightly-frozen shoulders, such as me.

I blame the carpet cleaning that had taken place. Whenever that happened in an office I worked in, I always got bitten by some recently-homeless critter. I never usually get bitten.

So I pondered my problem for a (short) while and to the rescue came the humble cotton bud. It afforded me that little extra bit of reach, so, loaded with ointment, it was pressed into use.

One of those household items I rarely use, but so very handy when needed. Another use has been softening pencil shading on art work. What are they officially for? I've never been sure.

]]>
Yes
August Books https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2016/09/02/august-books Fri, 02 Sep 2016 20:45:00 +0000 Vanessa f6ce83df-2100-e93d-79a4-cc18ede9abe7 Started 1 AugustFinished 13 August

This is the story of Frederick Marquis, Lord Woolton who ran the Ministry of Food in the UK during the Second World War. I happened to hear the author interviewed on the radio and was intrigued. I am of an age such that my parents lived through the war, my mother as an evacuee (to family, luckily) in South Wales, my father staying at home in west London. My generation, however, can barely imagine the privations of the wartime years.Woolton was a businessman who was asked to run the Ministry of Food, overseeing the feeding of the UK - no mean task for a country which, at that time, was a massive net importer of food. Woolton had a background in social work and he had seen first hand some of the deprivation and malnutrition that existed in poorer parts of England. He has also run a successful retail business, so was perhaps well placed for the task. He was determined that the whole country would be fed a nutritionally balanced diet, at a reasonable price, so that, at the end of the war, the population as a whole would be healthier than they had been before it started. The book brought to life his frustration with bureaucracy and set out the scale of Woolton's achievement. It was well written, an enjoyable and educational read.

Summerchester Secrets by Hazel Elizabeth Allen

Started 14 AugustFinished 18 August

This book won some independent romance prize. Yes, I know, not my normal genre, but I fancied something a little different for once. Something gentle and relaxing, which is exactly what I got. Pleasant, believable characters, pleasant setting and a believable little story. Not much variation on the boy-meets-girl theme, but the secrets of the title came into play. A happy ending, of course, but that made a pleasant change from the death and destruction in some of the thrillers I usually read. I enjoyed it for what it was; an undemanding read, but a pleasant tale nonetheless.

Rage by Zygmunt Miloszewski

Started 19 AugustFinished 31 August

Translated from the original Polish, this read well in English,so credit to the translator for that. To start with, I wasn't sure I would continue with the novel, as it seemed a bit slow to develop. This is the last in a series of books about the same character, a state prosecutor, but the only one in English. That didn't matter too much, fortunately. Much in the vein of Henning Mankell, the local environment, particularly the weather, was very much a part of the story and the atmosphere was set well.Overall I enjoyed the story, the more so as it developed. It had a few surprises, which unravelled gradually. I read a lot of thrillers, but didn't have any sense of thriler-fatigue here. If more of this author's work is translated, I would read it.

]]>
Yes
July Books https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2016/08/07/july-books Sun, 07 Aug 2016 16:18:00 +0000 Vanessa e752c645-c6c3-21f3-540a-30601cd20f98 I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The writing is excellent, nothing superfluous, yet everything vividly depicted. I have read some of Matt's other writing and enjoyed it, so I expected to enjoy this, but it was even better than I had anticipated. The final section, in particular, really came to life in my mind. Generally when I read a book, I just read the words, but in this one I could really see events unfold in my mind - very cinematic. I don't like books with unnecessary pages of description and that isn't the case here; the writing hits exactly the right balance for me. No spoilers though - read it for yourself.I felt the sense of unease early in the book, as the situation developed, until about a third of the way through, when I really did stop in my tracks. It's rare that a novel can produce such an OMG moment for me, but this one did . It really drew me in and kept me reading. I look forward to subsequent Kestrel adventures.

War Brides by Helen BryanStarted 8 JulyFinished 29 July

The opening starts in the present, then goes back to the 1930s, just pre-war. Setting the scene, I'm sure, but it felt a little rushed. Boy-next-door is friends with "worthy" daughter of local vicar. Boy-next-door goes off to the navy, comes back, proposes to worthy girl, goes to the US, is seduced by local scarlet woman, who is hiding a secret, and they return home, to the shock of the jilted "worthy". It all seems very rushed, without much character development. The story does develop nicely, into a tale of life during WW2 in Sussex. The characters are interesting enough, although the depiction of the Londoner felt a little patronising. Dropped aitches everywhere in the text. No reference to rural Sussex accents, of course. I imagine there was a working-class/middle-class divide here.One of the ladies works in intelligence and she discovers the secrets of the people in the Big House. At that point the story seems to stop rather abruptly and we are back in 1995, where the ladies are reunited, bar one. We find out what has happened to all of them in the intervening years, and it turns out the ladies have gathered to exact revenge by murdering someone; or rather, imprisoning him in a blocked smugglers passage under a gravestone. Yes, it turns out he was a traitor, and responsible for the death of their friend, but they managed this in the middle of the celebration of the re-opening of the church, in a village full of people and television cameras. Oh and one of them recovers some memories after traumatic amnesia: she recalls the apparently failed attempt to rescue her sisters from France, plus the fact that she had a baby who died. The final chapter reveals to the reader that the sisters had been rescued, unknown to any of the ladies, including the older sister. I think it was meant to be a poignant ending but it all felt a bit glib and trite.Overall I enjoyed the book, but it wasn't particularly well written, nor was it well paced.

Athelstan by Tom HollandStarted 29 JulyFinished 31 July

This wasn't a long book at all, but it was interesting. I knew virtually nothing about King Athelstan, yet it turns out he was possibly the first King of all England, rather than King of part of it, like King Alfred was.Tom Holland makes history accessible and interesting. I am still part of the way through another of his books, about Persia. I took a break, not because it was dull, but because there was so much information about an area so unfamiliar to me.

]]>
Yes
June Books https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2016/07/02/june-books Sat, 02 Jul 2016 05:28:00 +0000 Vanessa f7945eaa-6c6c-5dd0-bf23-60ed113048a9 Started 21 MayFinished 10 JuneKindle First for May

This book was ok. I didn't guess who the perpetrator was, so that was good. The characters were portrayed well enough and the story was interesting; it just didn't grab me really. It didn't have me wanting to turn the page (or tap the screen) as much as I had hoped. There was a thread running through the book, about a kidnapped/imprisoned young lady which I found jarring. It turned out to be relevant, but I found it confusing and a little disconcerting. I noticed a couple of places where the translation seemed a bit off, too; it didn't pick up the English idiom particularly well on occasion.

Cold (A Joe Tiplady Thriller 1) by John Sweeney

Started 11 JuneFinished 14 JuneKindle First for June

This was an excellent read. I thoroughly enjoyed it, as evidenced by the fact it only took me four days to read. It's not often that I really can't put a book down nowadays, but this was one of those occasions. All the various story threads were deftly woven together. I tend not to like novels which tell different stories at the same time; often I feel it breaks up the rhythm of the overall narrative, but that isn't the case here at all. Each thread was important and, although there was a clear "hero", the side stories were just as interesting, their characters well written.

I'll admit, I wasn't sure about the main protagonist to start with. He seems to be a bit of an anti-hero, someone who used to be an IRA member. However, some of his back story is filled in during the course of the book and this makes him more human. The way this is done is subtle; it follows as part of the flow of the novel. It may be that there are areas where the plot is slightly fanciful, but I didn't feel the need to pick holes in it; I simply enjoyed seeing events unfold. I wouldn't know what is, or isnt realistic when it comes to espionage and secrets.

The Double Life of Mistress Kit Kavanagh by Marina Fiorato

Started 15 JuneFinished 30 June

I have read several of Marina Fiorato's other novels, with "The Glassblower of Murano" being my favourite. This novel, it turns out, is based on a true story; a woman who fought with the Duke of Marlborough in the early 18th century.The first part of the book deals with her search for her husband, her life in the army and her growing bond with her Captain. The second part deals with her time as a spy and the last part brings these two threads together, with a dollop of treachery and the culmination of the love story. All in all a good mix, but then I expect nothing less from Fiorato.The book seemed a little slow to get going, but that could be purely by contrast with the previous book I read. Once I settled in to the story, I thoroughly enjoyed it.Would I read other books by this author? Well, yes, I already have. She is a fixture on my list of authors to look out for. I enjoy her writing style: straightforward storytelling, with strong female protagonists, a dash of romance, but not too much.

]]>
Yes
May books (plus a bit of music) https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2016/06/10/may-books-plus-a-bit-of-music Fri, 10 Jun 2016 14:14:00 +0000 Vanessa fa82a319-662e-867b-81bf-af8420fdd8e3 Still Waters (Sandhamn murders 1) by Viveca StenStarted 1 MayFinished 21 May

Enjoyed this. It felt like an unhurried read, but quite absorbing. The characters were nicely drawn, the plot was interesting and kept me guessing until just before the reveal. I will read more by this author.

Only one book, but I did go away and spend time with real people.

To compensate, here's a link to some music I bought, by a young British musician. I enjoyed it very much. It's still the CD in my car player.

Tom Wright

]]>
Yes
April Books https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2016/05/04/april-books Wed, 04 May 2016 20:13:00 +0000 Vanessa 23963bdf-21a4-50ce-2589-7b5cddd4b9be Only two books in April, although in my defence I have been very busy at work and the first book was a long one!

11.22.63 by Stephen King

Started 29 March Finished 13 April

I enjoyed this. Possibly, as a non-American and someone born after that date, the subject hasn't intrigued me as much as it might some people. However, the story was enjoyable and I quite probably know more about the Kennedy assassination than I did. I lost focus in the middle part of the book; I think I got a little bored with the tale of stalking Oswald. The story with Sadie was nicely written and the contrast between attitudes and morals in the 60's and now was fascinating. How things have changed in my lifetime. I did feel that the ending of the book was a little rushed. I think I would have liked less detail in the pursuit of Oswald and more in the changed future.

Blood Defense by Marcia Clark

Started 14 April Finished 30 AprilKindle First for April

For me, this book didn't really get going until about two-thirds of the way through. Then it became interesting, although at the end there were some revelations that left a slightly unpleasant taste behind. They also felt a bit tacked-on. On the whole I enjoyed the book, but I'm not sure this is a novelist I'd choose again.

]]>
Yes
Summertime on the Feeder https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2016/04/26/summertime-on-the-feeder Tue, 26 Apr 2016 14:07:00 +0000 Vanessa b3fb11b4-4304-ab96-e620-fbc6a8125025 DSCF1209.JPG

Popped downstairs to make a brew and spied my first goldfinch of the season on the nyjer seed feeder.After the earlier hail/snowstorm, it was a very cheering sight.

]]>
Yes
Shopping https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2016/04/06/shopping Wed, 06 Apr 2016 07:41:00 +0000 Vanessa 98276766-d7a2-aed5-de65-50ecd41a50a0 Yesterday some jeans I ordered online from Marks and Spencer arrived. They are two more pairs in exactly the same style as I have bought previously. Online shopping means I can get the "long" leg length, which is rarely available in stores. I expected to have to shorten them a little, as my current pair had to be turned up an inch or so. However, of the new pairs, one was exactly the right length, the other only marginally long - not enough to make it worth getting out needle and thread.

This kind of inconsistency never used to happen in M&S. I guess its our punishment for expecting cheap clothing: absolutely no quality control whatsoever. I think I would prefer things to go back to the way they were, although I have yet to find any manufacturer who makes blouses with sleeves as long as my arms. I recently bought a white blouse, as I need one for choir concerts. I chose one that fitted nicely, but the sleeves were too short. They are also so tight that it's not possible to turn them back, so I will have to convert the blouse to being short-sleeved, if I can. I know I'm fairly tall, but most sleeves are short by more than I am taller than average. Whilst I can make clothes, jeans (or tailored trousers in general) and blouses are beyond both my skill-set and available spare time.

]]>
Yes
March Books https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2016/04/01/march-books Fri, 01 Apr 2016 14:54:00 +0000 Vanessa 11a88b06-945f-9eb8-976b-f1dfeb53e82e The Aliens Are Coming - Ben Miller

Started: 2 MarchFinished : 11 March

A spot of non-fiction to start the month. The book examines how life started on Earth and how likely it is that complex life would /could start elsewhere. It looks at communication: if we did receive a message from aliens, could we decipher it? I wasn't expecting a book on alien conspiracies, which was as well, because this is a book full of information & a fair amount of science, from cosmology, through biology, chemistry and biochemistry, to linguistics and cryptography. All this written with a light touch and decent amount of the kind of humour Ben Miller is known for. I enjoyed it and learned a few things along the way. Worth reading.

Off The Grid - C J Box

Started: 11 MarchFinished: 17 March

The new C J Box came out. I have read all of his Joe Pickett books, as well as some of his others. The Pickett ones are without doubt my favourites and I enjoyed this very much.Joe Pickett is a game warden in Wyoming and the books are often set against this backdrop. Box does a good job of evoking the atmosphere and creating the mental image of the scenery. This book, however, is set in an area called The Red Desert - somewhere I didn't even know existed.Is it a little bit derivative? Well, it certainly deals with very current topics; the middle-Eastern terrorist threat and government surveillance and capture of data. I enjoyed the story but there was a small part of me thinking "oh this again". I suspect that is more because of the types of book I read rather than anything lacking in this novel. I think I just prefer to read about the mountains of Wyoming rather than the desert. Add to that last month's book, "Little Sister" and it was more on a similar theme. That said, I thoroughly enjoyed the novel and of course am eagerly awaiting the next book in the series.

The Big Fear - Andrew Case

Started: 17 MarchFinished: 25 MarchKindle First book for March

Very much enjoyed reading this. The story started small in scope and widened out to take in the title. The plot kept me reading and had a few twists I wasn't expecting. It taps into the mood of the current era, dealing with manipulation of markets/economies by powerful citizens. Another novelist goes on the "will-read-again" list.

The Polar Bear Killing - Michael Ridpath

Started: 25 MarchFinished: 25 March

This is a novella in the Fire and Ice series, which are about a detective in Iceland. I have read the other books in the series, so it was a given that I would read this one. I enjoyed it. I'm not generally a fan of short stories; I much prefer a decent length book that I can spend time with. However, this was a nice, quick read. Familiar characters and enjoyable.

An All-consuming Fire - Donna Fletcher Crow

Started: 25 MarchFinished : 28 March

Another book in a series, this time about an American Ordinand called Felicity and her priest friend/partner, Antony . Yes, I have read the earlier books in the series and enjoyed them. They are light reading, mixing murder mystery with religion and romance. Possibly light bits of fluff, but enjoyable nonetheless. Several of the books have been set in areas I know well and this is no exception, as it is set around Pickering, Rievaulx Abbey and Ampleforth - a beautiful part of the UK. It refers to the friezes in Pickering church, which I found almost by accident one year, when I had some spare time and wandered into the church for a look round. This, in turn, led to a fascination with the churches of the Yorkshire Wolds, and some very enjoyable trips out with my camera photographing just a few of them.

]]>
Yes
February Books https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2016/03/02/february-books Wed, 02 Mar 2016 15:58:00 +0000 Vanessa 93481b11-c8d3-9453-e310-3ed953b999bf Again, not too many books read, although I have caught up a bit - and bought some more to add to my list.

Fire and Ice (Liam Cunningham 1) Dana Stabenow

I enjoyed this more than the Kate Shugak book I read from the same author, as the main character interested me more. I may well read more in the series.The only thing that jarred was what seemed like a forced attempt to get a reference to the title in, right at the end of the novel. Otherwise, it was a decent enough thriller, set in Alaska.

Fields of Wrath - Mark Wheaton

This was one of the January Kindle first selections and is labelled as the first in the Luis Chavez series, so presumably more to come. Our hero is a priest in the US. I have to say I was suspicious and wondered if I would enjoy the story, but my concerns were unfounded. This is a good read, so much so that it prompted a few early nights so I could curl up under the duvet with my Kindle. It's a thriller, as are most of the books I read. We are introduced to Father Chavez and gain some understanding of his background, but all that fits in with the main plot nicely. I will look out for other books by this author.

Little Sister - Giles O'Bryen

February's Kindle first choice. Wow, the violence depicted was pretty graphic. Made me wince more than once. That aside, the story was good, interesting, topical and I enjoyed it. I wondered at the start if it was going to be a bit patronising in tone, but I think that was scene-setting for international readers.This, too, could be the first of a series of books about the lead character and I might well read others.

]]>
Yes
Kaweco Sport Pens https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2016/03/01/kaweco-sport-pens Tue, 01 Mar 2016 17:40:00 +0000 Vanessa b5ab5347-95b0-30d0-cd4e-7ca2e2ed8af3 My first Kaweco was a mint-coloured Skyline Sport with a medium nib, purchased out of curiosity and for the colour of the pen. It was inexpensive and I was, to be frank, disappointed. I wanted to use it with Diamine Marine ink, which has a lovely rich tone to it in my Parker 45. In the Kaweco it was pale and thin. The nib was prone to hard starts and had a flatness to it, rather like a small stub might. Previously I had only seen that in my Parker Rialto and I didn't like it there.

After taking advice from fellow Slack-ers in the Pen Addict Slack group I tweaked the nib quite a bit. Eventually it seemed to get the message and now writes well, although still with a discernible width to the stroke.

Undeterred, I decided to shell out for a second Kaweco, this time an orange Ice Sport with a fine nib. Again, largely for the colour, as I wanted to keep it in the pen loop of my Roterfaden Taschenbegleiter, which I chose with an orange felt lining.

The Ice Sport arrived and it was lovely. I loaded up a Kaweco pearl black cartridge and all was wonderful in Kaweco-land. Once that ink was exhausted I filled an empty cartridge with Parker Quink black. Oh dear, my little Kaweco didn't like that at all. Hard starts and skips. So the next ink was Diamine Matador - a nice colour for a bright orange pen. Much better, the little Kaweco seemed happy with that, so a red pen it remains.

I was surprised by the difference between the medium and fine nibs. This fine has a definite spring to it and is delightful to write with - as long as a suitable ink is used!

As is always the way with fountain pens, this was good until I decided that these plastic pens felt, well, a little delicate. I know they are supposed to be pretty tough, but I could feel definite movement at the join between section and body. I figured if I stuck one in the pocket of my jeans, or lobbed it into my handbag, I would worry. Of course, I convinced myself I really needed the aluminium version, so one was duly ordered; a nice silver one, again in a fine nib.Kaweco Pens.jpg

I have to say, it is lovely. I enjoy the way the pen warms up in my hand. I have had it for around a month now and I have used it quite a bit. It does get chucked in my bag, or slipped into a pocket. The fine nib on this one is different from the fine on the Ice Sport - it is more solid, without that slight spring. It writes well, though, with no skipping or hard starts. Of course, the test would come when I refilled the cartridge with Parker Quink, which I did yesterday. It took a little to get going, and on harder paper, does seem to write a little grey, but on more absorbent paper, it looks black enough. That said, it might be time to expand my horizons with regard to black ink. The Kaweco pearl black does seem to have more depth of colour than the Parker ink does - in some pens, at least. My Parker pens stopped working once, when I filled them with Schaeffer black ink, so I stuck with Quink, as black tends to be my favoured ink colour. There are more black inks out there to be tried, though…

Kaweco writing sample.jpg

]]>
Yes
Reinvigorating old(ish) kit https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2016/02/26/reinvigorating-old-ish-kit Fri, 26 Feb 2016 12:56:00 +0000 Vanessa 05d2f0a5-13c0-8763-17f6-a46103aa3f14 Spare time this week has been spent on bringing my old PC back to life. Old as in former, as well as in elderly.

My current PC is around three years old, good enough to pay some games on, with an i5 processor, GTX 560 graphics card, plus the usual other bits and bobs. It doesn't have Windows 10 yet and it may never get it; that's something I will have to decide on the coming months.

My former PC is based around a Sempron 3000+ processor and it had XP on it, bought in 2006. It had served me well, although before long I had added a hard drive from an even older PC and put Linux (Ubuntu 6.10) on it. That was later replaced with Mint 11. On the oh-so-capacious 30Gb drive, with XP remaining on the main, 80Gb drive. I know, puny amounts of drive space, but enough. Even more so now than when I first had the machine, as I have removable drives many times larger, plus a huge chunk of cloud storage.

A while ago I updated to Mint 15, so it was time to update to Mint 17.3. I opted to go 64-bit and also to try the Cinnamon desktop. That was an error of judgement, as it kept hanging. I should have realised that this machine would be unlikely to cope with one of the fuller GUIs around. Fortunately I was able to download and switch to Mate, my previous desktop. I was also fortunate to have downloaded my copy of Mint the day before the site got hacked and the version I downloaded was redirected to one containing a backdoor. Since then, the Mint website has been offline, changed servers and, hopefully, made themselves less vulnerable to Wordpress hacks. Possibly a lucky escape for me.

I next downloaded a full copy of Ubuntu 14.04, with the Unity desktop. As expected, the aged box wasn't keen on that either, so I eventually overwrote XP with Ubuntu 15.10 Mate. Yet again, Mate to the rescue. I'm not exactly a fan of the very lightweight desktops. I have tried both LXDE and Xfce in the past and they aren't for me.

I was caught out by Ubuntu's decision to allow the user to choose their own software manager, but soon got over that.So now I have a Windows-free PC. I imagine the sound doesn't work, as Linux has never liked my soundcard, but as I haven't got any speakers to plug into it, that's no big deal.

Thoughts on the process :

Mint seemed easier to install, but that was because I overwrote a previous version of Mint, so there wasn't a lot to consider. Ubuntu needed tweaks to the partition table, to reformat the disk, create a swap area and mount point - all things I haven't actually done for years.

Ubuntu picked up the location of Grub and didn't manage to destroy it, which has happened in the past. Yes, manually editing my Grub file some years ago gave me pause. However, Ubuntu did put its own stamp on my minimalist little Grub menu - a great big Ubuntu-themed stamp on it. Not the end of the world though.

When I installed Ruby on Mint, it picked up version 1.9. Jekyll wanted version 2. Version 2 was acquired, after a little Internet searching on the topic, but something didn't work right at the end of the process. It nearly worked, but not quite! Ruby still insists it is on 1.9, but Jekyll seems happy to work, so clearly it thinks there's enough of 2 for its purposes. I don't understand this and for now I can live with that.

So, being a glutton for punishment, I tried the same on the Ubuntu side of things. That repository happily delivered me a 2+ version of Ruby. Jekyll was happy, although installing something for Github pages failed. By that time it was "details".

All this was prompted by the similar "adventures", albeit in Pi-land of a friend on social media - you know who you are!

Oh and the first thing I installed on both versions was Midnight Commander. Old habits…

]]>
Yes
Baby Steps https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2016/02/18/baby-steps Thu, 18 Feb 2016 22:51:00 +0000 Vanessa d253ff8e-51ac-4a82-78c0-a4d31b9b9728 Yesterday I pressed the button on something I have been contemplating for a while - another domain name. So now I am the proud (?) owner of four domains. Not many by a lot of people's standards, admittedly.

Recently I have started using the name of one of my gaming (Guild Wars 2) characters as a username on some social media. I'm "hazardwarning" in a lot of places, but sometimes that name has been taken. So Mydnyght Rose, my cute Necromancer, has morphed into "mydnyghtrose". She has an email account, she has a Twitter account and is my Instagram and Reddit username. Now I have the .com domain name to play with.I have a couple of domains in my full name, but I wanted one to use, if I felt like it, for testing and learning.

Today I joined Github, also with this username. I figured I would go for some consistency. This is also a tentative step along my "learn web stuff" path. I can play with a Github page; I can follow some Code Academy courses. I feel like I'm making some progress.

Next: download a copy of Linux Mint 17.3, ready to re-purpose my old PC. I do need to check, but I think it will run the 64-bit version. Currently I haven't decided whether to try Cinnamon or stick with Mate, so that decision needs to be made - soon.

]]>
Yes
New Objectives https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2016/02/16/new-objectives Tue, 16 Feb 2016 15:26:00 +0000 Vanessa a7cd4a2d-987a-41eb-622c-a117b863f9df have some leave coming up next month, so I intend to update some of my last-century IT skills. This may, or may not, happen. It could just be a diversionary tactic, looking at the list of household jobs I already have lined up for that week.I am looking at some online courses/tutorials that might help. I hope to press my Raspberry Pi B into use and I might finally sort out my old PC. It's currently sitting idle, but is ripe for updating. I need to reformat the drives, so I can do away with the Windows installation and put a fresh Linux distro on. At the moment I think it's on Mint 15, though it could be 11 - it's a while since I have used it. This should be ok, as I have set up dual-boot machines many times in the past, so going from dual boot to a single OS ought to be within my capabilities.

Aims

  • Reformat/update old PC
  • Learn some basic web skills

Nothing too adventurous.

]]>
Yes
Plastic Surgery https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2016/02/08/plastic-surgery Mon, 08 Feb 2016 09:42:00 +0000 Vanessa c6e56c97-2215-249f-52a4-ea9969c3b243 I caught an item on the news this evening, in which it was stated that there had been a significant rise in plastic surgery procedures in the UK. I think that is worrying. What is it that is making people so unhappy with how they look? I can only assume it's other people. People in the media, celebrities who are always portrayed in a state of perfection, judgemental people who make themselves feel better by criticising others. Expectations seem to be raised so very high nowadays that few of us can hope to conform. I'm not talking here about people who have a medical or social need/desire for surgery, for reasons of dysphoria or disfigurement - although in some cases that can be brought about by the prejudiced reactions of society.

I think this whole situation is rather sad. I don't wish to pass judgement on people who have surgery; really it's none of my business. I have, though, seen young girls who really, genuinely feel worthless because of some aspect of their appearance. Great that they can change things, but surely not great that they should feel that way in the first place? Lovely, beautiful young women (and men) somehow believing they are ugly, or worthless. Nobody should feel that way, ever.

]]>
Yes
Hello World https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2016/02/07/hello-world Sun, 07 Feb 2016 07:20:00 +0000 Vanessa 6db51ea4-bee1-bbd3-0606-88446d941a69 Testing out a new tool, which will be more than just blogging. Eventually I think my old (current) site will come over to here. For now, though, just finding my way around on a typically rainy Sunday in February, with the 6 Nations rugby on in the background.

]]>
Yes
January books https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2016/02/01/january-books Mon, 01 Feb 2016 14:24:00 +0000 Vanessa 2d9a6669-c676-4470-bb0b-42647a7154a6 I decided that a good thread for my blog this year might be to list the books I read, along with my thoughts on them. All good, you might think, so I looked to see which ones I had read in January. I've been quite good this year, I thought, getting back into my reading groove. Or not, as it appears that I have finished precisely one book. In my defence, I started the year reading a long and detailed work of non-fiction ("Persian Fire: The First World Empire and the Battle for the West" by Tom Holland). I took a break from it to read some fiction: I will return to it, but I needed a break from the massive amount of information the book contains.

Somewhat shamefacedly I have to list my single finished book for January 2016:-

A Cold Day For Murder by Dana Stabenow

I came across this author mentioned in a review for another book on Goodreads. It turned out that the first book in the series was free on Kindle, as was the first of another series by the same author , which I am currently reading.

This novel is set in Alaska and, in my opinion, does a pretty good job of evoking the environment and isolation there. I have never been to Alaska, so in truth, I have no way of knowing how accurate the novel is, but the author is from Alaska, which confers some credibility. This isn't a literary read, but it's a decent thriller, with some entertaining and interesting characters. I haven't decided whether or not I will read more books from the same series yet, but I enjoyed the book.

My criteria for judging books are simple:-

Did I enjoy reading it?

Do I remember anything about the story after some time has passed?

I can't comment on the second yet, in this case, as I only finished the book recently, but, believe me, there are books that I can't recall any detail of shortly after I finish them. Others I can recall years later, which implies the story made some kind of impression on me!

]]>
Yes
The Daily Sneezing Fit https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2016/01/27/the-daily-sneezing-fit Wed, 27 Jan 2016 06:39:00 +0000 Vanessa 6570aa7d-50f4-2d8a-4f2d-a7a95768f54d So is this a thing, the daily sneezing fit? I've just had mine for today.

Yes, I have asked other people and, with my wide sample of three, it seems to be a thing. We all get a daily sneezing fit. Not all at the same time of day as each other, nor at the same time of day every day for each individual. At least that brings some variety to life, I guess. We don't live in the same house, or even the same area of the country, but there it is, the daily sneezing fit.

Perhaps more research is warranted.

]]>
Yes
2016 Planner Setup https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2016/01/25/2016-planner-setup Mon, 25 Jan 2016 01:30:00 +0000 Vanessa 842d12fc-7fa6-fe57-5036-36e55f734cda This year's planner setup will continue in the same manner as 2015 finished. I think I have (finally) found what works for me. I use a Traveler's Notebook, even though the spelling bugs me just a teeny bit. As I refer to it as a TN, I can cope.

I use the standard size and this fits in my bag just fine. I made myself a laminated dashboard, but have recently removed that, as I didn't use it.

The basic setup is this:Home-made week to a page diary. This is joined by a connecting band to a standard Midori blank insert. Wrapped around the diary only is a Midori credit card insert.These two inserts are slipped under the band. In the middle of those (the standard three-insert setup) is a Monthly Plan Pack which I settled on midway through last year. Do check it out, it's very useful, particularly for someone who works in an office. Tucked under all three of these inserts are a Midori zip insert and a Midori Kraft folder.

Of course, in addition to this I have several fauxdoris that I have made. One holds some spare A5 booklets, another (wide TN) how some Moleskine Chapters inserts & the third is a Field Notes size & has some pocket Moleskine booklets in.

Those three were just some practice pieces I did. My other cover in daily use is my Roterfaden Taschenbegleiter. I have an A5 one and I still love it. I would switch from the TN, except that this is too large to take everywhere and the A6 size is too small for me. So, it is my desk book. I have a Leuchtturm book in it that I keep work project notes in, a Rhodia notebook for, well, making rough notes, and a Zentangle booklet I created, which contains a pattern reference. That stays in there and at weekends the work book comes out and a sketch book goes in.

Ideally I would keep my daily journal in the RT, but I haven't been able to find the right one. I use a hardcover page-a-day A5 diary, which doesn't fit.

]]>
Yes
Social Media https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2016/01/24/social-media Sun, 24 Jan 2016 14:33:00 +0000 Vanessa cd9079d7-23b0-0204-0d1d-c25030d15d2b Late this afternoon I received a text from a good friend, asking if I had set up a new Facebook profile, as she had received a friend request from me. I hadn't, of course and it seems someone had cloned my profile details & set up a fake "me". They then sent friend requests to my existing friends. Whilst it was all sorted pretty quickly - I asked another friend to report it, as I was away from my devices (I don't have Facebook on my phone) - I do wonder how it happened.

I know my profile photo and background image are public, so can be re-used, but quite how this account could send friend requests to my friends, I'm not sure. All my settings are "friends only" wherever I can do that, so unless they had logged into my account, they shouldn't have been able to see that information. I have login alerts set up and there were none sent out. In addition I run a VPN, even at home, which I thought provided some additional security. A small amount of time on Google implied that it had to be done by a "friend". A little perturbing, as I don't have friends I don't know. However, it happened and fortunately Facebook closed down the faker within 10 minutes of having it reported.

I can understand why people leave Facebook. I don't post there much, I just check in to see what friends are up to: people I wouldn't otherwise have time to keep in touch with. I don't often post there myself now. I post occasionally on Twitter and I chat on App.net, a place where I feel very much amongst friends. But I'd miss Facebook if I left.

Naturally, my password manager now has an even longer Facebook password than it used to have, though I don't think that was compromised. Although, thinking about it, I really should change passwords more regularly. At least I don't re-use them on different sites!

]]>
Yes
Pen Addict - me? https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2015/12/16/pen-addict-me Wed, 16 Dec 2015 05:05:00 +0000 Vanessa 115f19bb-c7d6-7080-0239-6521e8d2c8df I have a confession, one that probably won't surprise anyone who knows me: I have a bit of a thing about fountain pens and stationery.

Yesterday I got into an exchange with a good friend on Facebook, whose addiction is more of the stationery kind than fountain pens. I pointed her towards several blogs I follow, as well as The Pen Addict podcast and Slack group. I don't know if she will listen, but she might. She might find some interesting feeds to follow on Instagram from checking out the people I follow.

On Monday evening I listened live to the podcast for the first time and I realised just how much pleasure I get out of listening, and interacting with fellow pen addicts in the Slack group. As a result, today I signed up for membership of Relay FM. It looks like a good way to support the work they do. I'm lucky though, I'm in a position to be able to do these things, so why shouldn't I?

]]>
Yes
Absence https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2015/11/10/absence Tue, 10 Nov 2015 01:23:00 +0000 Vanessa 337e2249-d995-0774-1c0d-abfecad9ae77 I wrote this a while ago and then forgot about it.

Every moment is just that - a moment.We step from moment, to moment.Minute to minute, hour to hour,Onwards and onwards.Because we can't go back;We can only go on, until we stop.And, if I'm honestBrief snippets of time are enough.Any more would be too much.Too much of the picture might be revealed.A jigsaw with crucial pieces missing,A photo taken with the wrong filter.No soft light in the sky,No whispering breeze wafting the grass.No smiling sun warming the land.A watercolour landscape washed with grey.With absence.

No-one to turn to, no-one to listen.Not no-one though, just that one,The one who cared, the one with whom I sharedAchivements, disasters, snippets of my day.The one who cared, supported and encouragedAnd was always there.The one whose love I always knew, always felt.The fulcrum of the family,The central point around which we all revolved,Whether she realised it or not.The most unassuming of people,Who believed she had nothing much to offer.Yet she leaves behind more than she could ever know.Every time I cook, I hear her guidance,It's there in all the crafts I do,Whenever I play the piano, her influence is there.Ok, not so much with maths or computing.And yet… I smile when I recallExplaining her email to her once more.So it seems she's in there, too.

Just a memory, though.A collection of thoughts, photos round the room,For she is gone.

]]>
Yes
Garden gate https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2015/10/04/garden-gate Sun, 04 Oct 2015 09:57:00 +0000 Vanessa cc15d306-05d6-914c-5282-f1b23efb6354 Progress is slowly being made with reinstating Dad's garden gate. For the last few years it has just been lying across the side path - not exactly providing any security.  The reason for this was that the hinge brackets that came with the gate were not easy to fix to the brick wall. More properly, the spacing of the gate struts meant that the hinges had to be fixed to the very edges of a brick. For some reason the style of the gate was incompatible with the spacing of the bricks. One of the bottom brackets was partly secured by being screwed into the mortar between bricks, never a reliable option.

I found some posts which allow the gate to be hung on them, rather than hinges bolted to the wall. Of course, the posts were a little thicker than the holes in the gate, so today we drilled/filed out the holes a bit and sized the gate up against the wall. The upper support can be screwed securely into a couple of bricks, but the bottom one will be a little closer to the edges of the bricks than I would like. Still, it should be secure enough. It only stabilises the gate, rather than taking any of the weight. Normally both posts would be upright, allowing the gate to be slotted on to them. However, that doesn't work with the brick spacing, so we decided the bottom one would point down. This means it has to be put in place after the gate had been hit on the top bracket. The upside is that no burglar would be able to lift the gate off its support without unscrewing everything either. 

Once the holes are drilled for the top post - something I have left my father with for the week - then we can do the rest next weekend. Once that is done, new holes will have to be drilled to accommodate the new latch position, the gate sanded and repainted. That last bit can wait; as long as the gate is in place I will be reasonably happy.

]]>
Yes
Edison Collier in antique marble https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2015/09/19/edison-collier-in-antique-marble Sat, 19 Sep 2015 03:26:00 +0000 Vanessa dc616acc-90a6-fafd-d2f6-dfb49730444b I bought this pen on impulse, mostly because I was frustrated that the Pelikan M205 Amethyst hadn't come out at the start of August. I rather liked the idea of the silver marble, but for some reason, at the last minute, my eye was drawn to the antique marble. I haven't been disappointed. I ordered a fine nib, a steel one rather than a gold one. A good steel nib is perfectly acceptable nowadays. I do like gold nibs, but I'm not going to get hung up on them.

So I ordered this impulse pen - which at £115 was more expensive than the Pelikan I planned to buy. As I am in the UK I limited my choice to the production range, rather than the custom one from the US, along with the customs charges that would apply.

Evernote Camera Roll 20150919 122647

I find it difficult to express just how delighted I have been with my purchase. This pen is simply gorgeous. It is perfectly weighted, it fits in my hand just so (I don't have small hands, I have piano-playing hands with a pretty decent stretch) and writes beautifully. The body is silky-smooth, with stunning colouration in the marble design. It reminds me of tobacco being rubbed in the pouch (a favourite task of mine as a child was to flake my Dad's pipe tobacco). The nib is smooth, just a small amount of feedback. I bought a fine and it is a very usable line size. To start with I tried a few inks out just by dipping. I do feel that pens each have their happy ink. My gold-nibbed all black Parker 45 CT would be wrong without black ink in it, for example. My clear TWSBI 580 also seems to have settled with black ink. My Violet-capped Faber-Castell Loom fits well with Diamine Imperial Purple. In some pens the end result differs wildly. Both my Kaweco Skyline Sport and my steel-nibbed Parker 45 have Diamine Marine in them, but the result in the page couldn't be more different, as the photo below shows. As the Kaweco is the mint green version I really wanted to fill it with Marine, expecting the colour the Parker produces. I was disappointed, but then I think the Kaweco nib still needs some work on it as it skips rather more than I would like.

Evernote Camera Roll 20150919 122824

I digress - perhaps a topic for another day. Back to the Collier. As a brown-ish pen, it really didn't warrant black ink, but I really have no liking for brown inks, so that left my blues, of which I have four: Diamine Imperial Blue, Diamine Misty Blue, Diamine Blue-black and Cult Pens (also Diamine)   Deep Dark Blue. I opted for the DDB, as I call it. I have since tried the blue-black in the pen, but with the fine nib it looked rather thin and pale, so the DDB went back in. Ironically, I loaded my TWSBI AL with the Imperial Blue, which left me without a pen with blue-black in, so I decided to try that in my Pilot Capless. The TWSBI brought out the teal tones in the ink, in the Collier it appeared lighter than the DDB, but in the Pilot (also a medium nib, as is the TWSBI) the blue-black is very dark indeed. 

So here it is, a pen I am very taken with. It is always in my daily carry pen case now and I don't see it leaving any time soon. I keep my clear TWSBI and my Pilot Capless with my Midori Travelers Notebook and in my Lihit Labs smart fit small pen case I have my Parker 45, my Cult Pens mechanical pencil, my Pelikan M205 Amethyst (it came out, I bought it, but then that was never much in doubt - it's purple), my TWSBI AL (purple) and the Edison Collier. So I guess my handbag contains a fair amount of pen wealth, but I can live with that. 

]]>
Yes
Fatigue https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2015/09/19/fatigue Sat, 19 Sep 2015 00:20:00 +0000 Vanessa 46b79bc0-d001-b595-3184-d287083ce02e It has been one of those days (weeks/months even).

So far I have managed to forget - yet again - that taking a photo in portrait alignment is worse than pointless if you want to use it in a blog post, as most of the time it gets rotated to display in landscape. I have been caught by this before and had it explained to me by people who understand these things. At least this time I have made myself a note, in both Evernote and Onenote. 

WordPress is hanging on uploading a photo (correctly oriented). I don't use it often and I'm now reminded why!

Windows 10 decided to tell me it was downloading today: it told me that last month, I just didn't install it. Perhaps that's the penalty ; if you download and don't install, every month or so it will download again, just to fill up my hard drive and hammer my already pretty measly internet connection.

I have decided I like iOS 9 though, apart from the little hiccup of an ad blocker app being withdrawn from sale a day after I buy one. There are some useful features in the new OS, ones that I am already using quite a lot. 

I am now starting a week off work, which is a great relief. Less of a relief was that most of my systems crashed towards the end of the day, so I was unable to finish some things I wanted to do. File that one away with the other annoying work things that have happened this week. It just seems that no matter how good, how helpful, some people are never satisfied… But enough of that, I'm on holiday now and I don't intend to get into an argument (with myself) on the internet about the correct amount of gratitude that should be shown by people who are, essentially, living off handouts. I want to look forward to some days out in the early Autumn sunshine and a visit from my best friend. What's that? Yup, the forecast is mostly for rain. Of course it is.

I think I should quit while I'm (mostly) ahead - and see if Evernote will offer these musings up to my blog in the near future…

]]>
Yes
Simple Pleasures https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2015/06/16/simple-pleasures Tue, 16 Jun 2015 01:18:00 +0000 Vanessa 6b793f67-5df4-c3c3-7063-260ca7b63a72 Yesterday I stood for a while in the kitchen, looking out into the back garden. I was mesmerised by the activity at the nyjer seed feeder.  I put a small, two-bird, feeder up last year, not expecting to see much activity. The large, general, seed feeder I have sees very few visitors (which is a shame, as I have plenty of feed for it).  However, soon some beautiful goldfinches started to eat the nyjer seed and regular activity has continued at this feeder. Note to self: buy a larger one.

Last night the feeder had two birds at it, noshing away. A third was on the washing line nearby, with a fourth sitting on the neighbouring garage roof. Bird 3 hopped from the washing line to the top of the bracket the feeder hangs from. Bird 4 took his place on the washing line. Bird 3 then hopped down from the top of the bracket to perch on the hook part. He then peered intently at the occupants of the feeder for a few moments, hanging a quite a crazy angle. Next he hopped down on to the top of the feeder itself. One of the occupants looked up then flew away, allowing Bird 3 to take his place. Bird 4 was still waiting his turn, sitting on the washing line. 

Bird 3 amused me. He looked like a cheeky chappie. For all I know he was a bully and was making threatening moves towards the other finches, but I like to think not. I chuckled every time he moved that little bit closer to his goal.  Simple pleasures.

]]>
Yes
Card-making https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2015/05/04/card-making Mon, 04 May 2015 06:12:00 +0000 Vanessa d3625794-fd12-eaae-7bfe-28816dc81ba9 Trying out a couple of new Tattered Lace dies I bought.

hazardwarning-1430748669973

hazardwarning-1430748681456

]]>
Yes
A New Hobby? https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2015/04/05/a-new-hobby Sun, 05 Apr 2015 14:35:00 +0000 Vanessa c3a62f17-8b8a-0d6b-8b05-84d9912ccd85 About a month ago I saw a post on a local facebook group which was advertising a weekend course leading to the Foundation Amateur Radio Licence exam.

In my teens/early twenties, I used to do a lot of shortwave listening. It started with an old radio which I used to listen to shortwave broadcast stations at night - in the days when there were plenty of them around. I later moved on to a Lowe HF-225 which enabled me to listen to SSB transmissions as well.

When I moved to London I made more use of my scanner, on airband. I used to sit on my balcony and watch Concorde fly over while listening to the pilots talk to Heathrow approach.

I did investigate taking my amateur exam, but it seemed in the too difficult category back then. The lowest grade was the Novice exam and for someone who happily left physics behind at the age of 16, it was a little off-putting. Plus, the Novice licence didn't allow access to the HF bands, which seemed a little restricting to me.

Fast-forward to 2014 and here was this post… Places available on a two-day course. I looked up the Foundation licence and it appeared to be eminently achievable. It seemed as though fate was about to intervene to rekindle and extend my old hobby. I duly booked onto the course and a couple of weekends ago I headed off to the local radio club for my tuition. I thoroughly enjoyed the weekend, despite being a little nervous. It turned out there were only two students, so it was a very relaxed setting. I learned loads and, best of all, passed my practical tests and the exam, so am now the holder of a licence and an M6 call-sign. I am looking forward to exploring some of the myriad of avenues open to a licensed amateur.

I know that modern technology has taken over from a lot of the old amateur interests, but they are still out there. Phone signals go down in emergencies, phone batteries don't last long. Handheld radios do. Computers and the internet, whilst doing away with a lot of the old broadcast shortwave stations, have brought with them additional amateur interests and have extended others. My Dad used to hook the Lowe up to his computer and decode weather fax transmissions. I have weather apps. Times change. During the course, though, I watched data being picked up from amateur high-altitude balloons. Fascinating. Computers have added a lot of data modes to amateur radio, as well as things like Echolink, which I might investigate at some point. Amateurs now monitor, and use, satellites. They do moonbounce contacts. Oh, and someone built a space station and the astronauts on it use amateur radio to talk to people on earth. Imagine the thrill of speaking to an astronaut on the ISS! I will be listening in at least.

I have yet to speak to anyone, but then I only have a 2m/70cms cheapie (but very usable) Chinese radio. That said, last weekend a new repeater fired up pretty local to me. Excellent reception, so I have been listening in to some of the testing that has been done.

So much still to explore and learn; this is just the beginning of my adventures in amateur radio.

]]>
Yes
Diamine Autumn Oak Ink https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2015/02/13/diamine-autumn-oak-ink Fri, 13 Feb 2015 05:42:00 +0000 Vanessa 77e0c6d5-9ebe-09ea-0f6a-95ea2e865ff5 Evernote Camera Roll 20150213 144221

Another ink I had to wait for. Then, when I got it, I put it in one of my Parker 45s (the one that now has Marine in it), No amount of soaking or flushing was successful in eradicating all traces of my usual black ink, so I had to abandon using the autumn oak.  Also, I decided it would probably look better in a wider nib, so I loaded my Safari with it.

I think this was a good decision: I intend to use this ink for decorative lettering, so having a wider nib is more useful. However, this nib/pen seems to run a little dry with this ink, so I have to be careful to avoid gaps.  I have only used this combination, so I have no comparison to make with this ink in other wide-nibbed pens, or other ink in this pen. That said, I shall continue to use it as it's  lovely compromise between orange and brown for me.

]]>
Yes
Diamine Marine Ink https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2015/02/13/diamine-marine-ink Fri, 13 Feb 2015 05:30:00 +0000 Vanessa ccf4899f-8799-31a4-0485-3b15bcc3ce00 Evernote Camera Roll 20150213 143057

When I first decided to try this ink it was out of stock. That got me the misty blue, which I like.

I now have the marine and I love it. For me it's just the right mix of blues and greens. It comes out  with a nice intensity. In the Parker 45 it has a wonderful depth. In my Rialto it appears paler - intriguing how an ink can look so different in different pens. It's still a lovely colour though, just paler.

 I can see this ink being in regular use. I would happily use it as an everyday colour

]]>
Yes
Kaweco Skyline Sport Classic https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2015/02/08/kaweco-skyline-sport-classic Sun, 08 Feb 2015 14:19:00 +0000 Vanessa 4fe77ab3-3ea4-03cd-0a88-eeac4904b25b I bought this pen partly out of curiosity, partly purely because it came in a mint green colour and I love mint green.

Evernote Camera Roll 20150213 144648

It's relatively cheap and to be honest, it looks and feels cheap. When I hold the pen I can feel the joint between the nib section and body move slightly. 

I will be sticking with cartridges for this pen, as the filler is likely to be pretty teeny; indeed I haven't read a good review of the bottled ink converters.

I opted for a medium nib, as it's my preferred width. As with my Parker Rialto, this medium has a slightly flat appearance, so there's a discernible difference in stoke width. To my mind, that alters the look of my writing - and not necessarily for the better.

The nib is ok - I have had some skips and false starts. It isn't nearly as gorgeous as the nib on the Faber-Castell Loom. As said earlier, I don't think it quite suits my writing style.

I have used two ink colours in it so far and it doesn't seem to produce the colour depth that some of my other pens do. Diamine's imperial purple looked a bit more like a pale violet than the rich depth I get when using it my Faber-Castell.

The pen is as light as a feather and teeny when closed. It needs to be posted, or it is a bit short for writing with. After several days of usage the nib still skips a bit. Other than that the pen is easy to use. I have been writing with it quite a lot, to see what I think of it.  For jotting down quick notes it is fine and for a smaller hand it would be a great pen. For me, the barrel is just a little narrow to be comfortable for a long writing session, as I have large hands. I have a similar problem with my Parker Rialto and for that reason I prefer to write with my chunkier pens.

These Kawecos get good reviews, for value for money and, apparently, for being extremely robust. I have no desire to test that, but it is small (and cheap) enough to drop into a small purse or bag.  

In conclusion, this is a perfectly useable pen, good value for money and easy to chuck into a bag. That said, it's a little too small for my hand and I doubt I would buy another Kaweco Sport.

]]>
Yes
Faber Castell Loom https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2015/02/08/faber-castell-loom Sun, 08 Feb 2015 14:13:00 +0000 Vanessa 0c6a868c-7339-b341-19fd-cadafee4b6c7 I bought this pen purely because of its looks. I opted for the violet cap.

It arrived in a very nice, card, presentation box, in a nice sleeve. For a £25 pen I thought the presentation was excellent. The box contained a cartridge and also a cartridge blank. The Loom takes the short cartridges and the length of the barrel means you can use the blank to ensure the cartridge remains securely attached to the feed. You could also do that with a spare cartridge. I bought the Faber-Castell converter, though, as I prefer to use bottled ink. There's something I find quite soothing about the act of filling a pen from a bottle of ink.

The Loom is heavy, possibly the heaviest fountain pen I have, weighing in at 34g. My Parker IM is 30g and my TWSBI 580 is 28g, although it really doesn't feel like it.

The Loom looks gorgeous, it really does.

Evernote Camera Roll 20150213 144707

I currently have it filled with Diamine Imperial Purple and the colour on the page seems much more intense than the same ink in either the Kaweco Skyline Sport, or the Parker Rialto (all three with a medium nib). Mind you, both the Kaweco and the Rialto have a definite breadth to the nib, almost as though they have a flattened tip. The Loom produces a very nice, rounded line.

The nib on this pen is quite possibly the smoothest I have ever written with, it really is. It just glides across the page, it really is beautiful to write with. Unfortunately in use the pen is a little fatiguing, because it's so heavy. 

Some reviews have commented that the grip on the Loom is slippery. I haven't found this to be the case at all. My Parker IM does have a slippery grip, as is sometimes the way with a metal barrel. The Loom doesn't, nor do the horizontal grooves bother me much.

The cap is a very firm fit - it can be hard to get off the pen. It comes in a range of stunning colours (yes I am tempted to buy more and fill them with matching ink colours), but it does feel quite plastic.

The pen can be used posted or unposted and the cap doesn't really alter the balance much, which is handy.

Overall I am very impressed with this pen. The only negative at all is that it is a little heavy. Aside from that, it is an absolute winner. And that nib… it pushes this pen into a close second place, after my trusty Parker 45, with its 14k gold nib.

]]>
Yes
TWSBI Diamond 580 https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2015/02/08/twsbi-diamond-580 Sun, 08 Feb 2015 14:02:00 +0000 Vanessa c4d90b2c-4641-6b83-c651-849b0be34fb0 I have had this pen for a month now and I am impressed. It has quickly become my daily pen, partly because I tend to write a lot and this pen holds a lot of ink.

Evernote Camera Roll 20150213 144837

Initially I thought the nib was a little scratchy, compared with my Lamy Al-Star, which is my only other fine nib pen. However, it seems to have settled down quite nicely. I am aware of it when I write, but that isn't a major problem.  As this is my daily pen it is filled with Parker black Quink - the ink I have used since childhood. It holds almost 2ml of ink and so far I have only had to fill it once a week, which is great. I would feel comfortable going away with just this pen (I write a lot of notes for work, plus a daily journal - away from home I only write the journal). 

The pen weighs in similar to my Parker IM, despite being plastic compared to the metal of the Parker. However, it doesn't feel as heavy in the hand. The grip is fine for my hands, although in a small hand it might seem large. 

It starts well every time, with no skipping or false starts.

On some papers (Leuchtturm, I'm looking at you) it can seem to lay down a thin, weedy line of black. I think that might be partly down to the fine nib and that black is somewhat unforgiving in this respect. On typing paper, it looks fine.

As someone who always posts her pens, it seems odd not to, but with the TWSBI one can't - or shouldn't, as the cap only posts on the very end, so there's a risk of turning the filling mechanism when removing the cap.

I haven't had the pen for long, so can't really comment on how robust it is. I have slight concerns about the possibility that it might leak - I'm not used to a pen where the body is the ink chamber. This worries me a little, but I am not usually rough with my pens and the way it writes and the amount of ink it holds mean it has become my daily use pen very quickly. At the moment it is contentedly tucked into my Midori TN.

]]>
Yes
The Whistle Blew https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2015/02/07/the-whistle-blew Fri, 06 Feb 2015 22:31:00 +0000 Vanessa d4477f42-9fad-29bb-c586-060711445d95 And it was all over. England beat Wales in Cardiff. Wales were good in the first half, but different teams came out for the second half.  I was disappointed, of course, but, more than that, I felt as though there was no point watching rest of the Six Nations, as we could no longer get the grand slam (or the triple crown). Yet we can still win the championship - this was the first match of the tournament. So, I shall continue to watch, but losing to the old rivals, in the opening game, that stung and took away a chunk of anticipation. Here's hoping it's a long time until Wales and England next meet in the first match.

]]>
Yes
Calligraphy - maybe https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2015/01/29/calligraphy---maybe Thu, 29 Jan 2015 12:37:00 +0000 Vanessa 49eae19f-a196-e207-d736-6b644a2eb37e This week I received yet another impulse purchase: a couple of calligraphy books and a new set of pens. I have a set of Schaeffer pens, but they are very old, not well cared for and only take cartridges, so I decided to replace them with a set of Manuscript ones. So far, so good. I am now spending spare moments making shapes on paper that I haven't done for years. Hopefully I will be able to pick it up again fairly quickly. Nothing fancy, just a spot of italic and Old English style. I don't have a nib flexible enough for Copperplate; the softest I have is my shorthand pen, which isn't really good enough. 

Considering I make greetings cards, it is odd that I let my calligraphy slide. I think I dropped it at University. I had problems with tendons in my hands and my priority was definitely continuing to play the piano - and basic writing. This was in the days when essays were hand-written. Fortunately I was able to reduce the strain on my hands by switching from right- to left-hand writing and vice versa. I had problems with my ring and little finger on my right hand, which meant I couldn't grip anything, or, really, use either of the fingers for quite a while. I also had a bifurcated tendon in my left hand: the one that works the thumb. That eventually got surgery, after cortisone injections failed to work. Apparently it's not that common a condition and the surgery worked well.

I still have problems with my hands and have to be careful to vary my movements to avoid any RSI. Well, that's my excuse for having some beading, some knitting, some crochet, some sewing and some embroidery all on the go at the same time: I have to switch regularly. Oh and varying the musical instruments I play, too. Last night it was a spot of mandolin practice, which only served to remind me how soft the pads on the fingers of my left hand had become. Ouch.

]]>
Yes
Diamine Imperial Purple Ink https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2015/01/08/diamine-imperial-purple-ink Thu, 08 Jan 2015 05:53:00 +0000 Vanessa a0ce1665-2012-f9f0-8c5d-9686c10b101a Diamine Imperial Purple

Wow, the paper has come out very grey in this shot - the bottom half of the same photo as the Misty Blue Ink!  Even so, I think the ink colour shows reasonably well.  

I really like this colour.  I'm a big fan of purple, but also very fussy about the shade.  So many purples are too blue, or far too pink.  This has a nice balance - deserving the "Imperial" name, in my opinion.

I have loaded this into my Parker Rialto, which is a medium nib and a very nice pen to write with.  I can see myself using this colour for writing short notes, or greetings cards, quite happily.   It may well get pressed into use to add small areas of colour to some Zentangle work that I do.  In short; a generally useful ink to have.  Yes, very pleased with this one.

]]>
Yes
Diamine Misty Blue Ink https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2015/01/08/diamine-misty-blue-ink Thu, 08 Jan 2015 05:44:00 +0000 Vanessa 450b1856-2dbb-c132-982f-d3e5b32ffee0 Diamine Misty Blue

One of my new inks. I ordered this one as Marine was out of stock. I had decided that was my preferred ink. However, Misty Blue was my second choice.

Ever since being forced to use Royal Blue Washable ink at primary school, I have rebelled against all blue inks. For day-to-day writing I still use Parker Black Quink. It has served me well over the years and I don't intend to change.

However, I decided that I had far too many pens with black ink in and I could probably make good use of some different colours, particularly when making greetings cards. When I put my order in for a new fountain pen (a TWSBI Diamond 580), I added three bottles of ink, of which this is one.

This is a photograph of a sample, admittedly not taken in the best quality light, as it is a drizzly winter day. I think the colour looks reasonably accurate though, just slightly darker than "real life".

I like this ink and I can see myself using it, possibly even as a general writing colour. It is a reasonable compromise between too-blue and too-turquoise. The depth of colour is nice and it manages to make my shocking handwriting look half-way decent. Sometimes with a fine nib, black ink can look a little thin, whereas this doesn't.

In summary, pleased with the purchase.

]]>
Yes
In Search of Paper - and Leather https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2015/01/04/in-search-of-paper---and-leather Sun, 04 Jan 2015 12:59:00 +0000 Vanessa 97818f1b-25a1-84e8-04df-78671433d4f8 I make extensive use of apps on my tablets for all sorts of purposes. I use ToDoist, Evernote, OneNote, Notability and iThoughts for many tasks. However, I also like to put pen to paper. I don't always have an electronic device on me - sometimes it's just not practical. Ok, I usually have my phone, but that's only any good for offline notes, thanks to it's general state of uselessness and the poor mobile signal in the countryside. 3G is a luxury round here.

In September I bought a couple of Leuchtturm 1917 Whitelines books. They are very nice, although in low light I find it difficult to see the lines. I have an A5 book that I use for jotting down blog/writing ideas. I also started using it from the back to jot down notes of things I wished I could tell my Mum and times I thought about her. Maybe that use will fade over time, as the memory of her death becomes less painful. I'm told it will. The small notebook is in my handbag, for jotting down "stuff", which will generally get transferred to one of my electronic devices later in the day. I like the ability to photgraph the page and have it upload automatically into Evernote. That's very handy. 

The problem with the hardback books is that I agonise over what to write, and where. Also, to my surprise, they don't seem to like fountain pen ink. Writing with any of my pens comes out pale and washy. Not ideal.

Putting all this together and I wondered if perhaps I should go back to a Filoxfax. Ring-bound pages which can be moved around as I choose. I used Filofaxes of various sizes for many years, but I couldn't find my old one. I also don't think it was A5 size, which is the size I have decided I want. While I was browsing various journal-related sites I came across the Midori Traveler's Notebook. Simple, cheaper than a Filofax and a reasonable compromise. OK, paper comes in small books, rather than single sheets, but notebooks can be removed once finished with. Plus, they aren't/don't have to be hole-punched. Filofax paper is also too thin for my taste. It didn't take me long to make my decision and I have ordered a Midori Traveler's Notebook. I ordered a couple of bits to go with it, but they didn't have the connecting bands available. All being well I might manage to get hold of some large rubber bands which will do the job just as well. If not, I'll think of something. The notebook comes with a plain refill and not many refils seem to be available in the UK, so I started to investigate the possibility of making my own. I found a website devoted to this subject - mylifeallinoneplace.com - which contains some excellent downloads and advice. I have to say I have struggled massively with printing out a diary in "booklet" format. Allegedly my printer supports it, but let's just say it didn't go well and in the end I gave up. Having said that, I already have a diary, so I might slip that into a walllet pocket anyway. I have successfully made my own notebooks; one containing a mixture of blank and lined pages and another which is a bullet journal. I covered them with card which I had embossed. Just a little bit of embellishment, seeing as I don't even have the TN yet. Once I do, I hope my usage will evolve over time and I will settle on the inserts that suit me best. 

]]>
Yes
Music, Music, Music https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2014/12/12/music-music-music Fri, 12 Dec 2014 14:56:00 +0000 Vanessa 6257130d-fdf3-a76c-9862-88691b0287ee I have been accompanying the local choral society since September (the first rehearsal was tough, coming, as it did, a few days before my Mum's funeral). At Easter I accompanied the local church choir in Fauré's Requiem - both groups share the same musical director.  A lot of work for me and a relatively small audience on Palm Sunday. However, the choir sang well, enjoyed themselves, and several members of the audience took the time to come over to thank me for playing. Not to thank me for stopping, but rather they seemed genuinely impressed with my efforts. I'm not used to this. I judge my abilities against how good I was when studying music full-time (with less creaky fingers, tenosynovitis aside) and I come up short. Back then, I compared myself with the best of my class and I was way down the order. That's no surprise, as any music department has people of varying abilities: second-instrument pianists, Grade VIII pianists, through to potential concert pianists. I was somewhere between the last two on that list. Never good enough, that's my assessment of my abilities.

As a pianist, I wasn't involved with music-making after I left university, though I continued to play. I eventually moved to London, where there is music everywhere. I attended concerts, but only ever played for myself. I never got involved. I did do some theatre work and occasionally that included recording some piano tracks - on an Atari ST over MIDI, but that was it (I still love working with MIDI).

Two years ago I moved to a small town/large village in Dorset. Within a few months I was accompanying a local WI choir, which lasted about eighteen months. More recently I have become involved with the aforementioned choral society. My first concert with them was last weekend: our Christmas concert. It went well. The choir sang the best they have all season and I actually enjoyed it. See, whilst I love playing, and I particularly love accompanying, I don't like performing. In this performance I was moving between the piano and organ a lot, so had to walk up an aisle of the hall as well, through the audience. I don't like being on display much, so I found that hard to do. 

Since I moved here I have done concerts in local care homes and a performance at a charity gala with a friend who sang. OK, it was "lounge bar" music just while guests arrived, but we were there, in evening gowns, doing our bit. I loved it! I have now done a performance for another Mayoral function, a concert and also played organ for a church service, something I last did at the age of 18.  I think I might actually be getting over my stage-fright; something which hit me at the age of 11 and has had a huge effect on my life ever since. I can't do presentations at work: I can deliver training, but if I have to do a presentation I am physically sick. I can barely even stand on a stage. This has been a huge struggle for me. I watch other people stand up, completely at ease with an audience and I don't know how they do it. I watched my brother deliver a eulogy at my Mum's funeral, reading anecdotes she had written, in the most testing of circumstances. He was amazing. All I could offer was a recording of me, playing a piece of music we both loved to play.

I am playing for a 9 lessons and carols service next weekend and I'm quite looking forward to it.  So much so, that I am considering offering to play for Midnight Mass. Usually they have to do without the organ, as nobody wants to play at that time.  But I will only be at home, possibly asleep. I'm not going away for Christmas and I'm not really looking forward to it at all this year, after recent events. So should I do something that I will enjoy, is no real hardship for me, and will probably give a group of people a fair amount of pleasure on one of the most important days in their year? Yes, I think I probably should.

Perhaps I am finally understanding the power of music, not just for myself as a method of de-stressing, but as a way I can make other people happy. It pleases me greatly that this seems to be the case. I actually feel like I have something to offer society, something I can give back and that's a great feeling, particularly at this festive time of year.

]]>
Yes
Forays into learning a new language https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2014/11/05/forays-into-learning-a-new-language Wed, 05 Nov 2014 10:15:00 +0000 Vanessa e062202d-b668-4b3b-0582-df4ceba3ac3f After much deliberation and some discussion with friends about the best Scandinavian language to learn, I purchased "Teach Yourself Norwegian". It was available on iTunes as an e-book with audio, which seemed like a good option.

Over the years I have gained a passing familiarity with a number of languages: I studied Latin to O-level and French to A-level. I subsequently worked my way through books on German, Italian (Latin helped) and Spanish (a Spanish friend was amazed to find that although I spoke no Spanish I could read good chunks of a website she was looking at - French and Latin helped there). At university I took a year-long course in Welsh. I wanted to see if I had any affinity with my ancestral language. It turned out that I didn't really. Welsh is not the easiest of languages to learn - though it is probably far from the most difficult. I think it is just very different from the group of languages I have experienced thus far in my life. I can do the accent fine, just not the vocab. And as for the mutations at the start of words…

Other than my French and Welsh studies, most of my learning has been theoretical rather than practical. When I was studying there was no internet, no easy access to foreign language programmes other than twiddling the old shortwave radio knobs late at night and hoping. Living in the UK meant very little exposure to anything "foreign" back then. Nor was I/am I a great traveller, having left these shores only five times in my life.

So here I go, off into unknown territory. I have no idea how far I will get, or even what use it will be, but any attempt at furthering knowledge has to be good for the soul. One day I will get round to learning (or trying to learn) Esperanto, another language which fascinates me.

]]>
Yes
Tales of incompetence https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2014/10/17/tales-of-incompetence Fri, 17 Oct 2014 13:49:00 +0000 Vanessa b68fc35d-c788-279b-4e90-aabb80cd070a The Government Agency

The Monday following my Mum's death I telephoned the Pension Service (OK, Pension, Disability and Carer's Service, to use its full title ) to notify them of the fact. We had calculated that a payment was due to go out that week, and thought it better to ask them to hold the payment, rather than have to repay some money. The call went smoothly enough: I was able to establish that I had enough details for them to take my report on trust. I was told that I didn't need to send in the form that the Registrar would give us, as my telephone report was sufficient. They told me that my Dad would be entitled to a small increase in his pension as a result and then they asked if the balance owed to Mum should be paid into the same account as her other payments. That was fine: it was a joint account and the details would remain the same.

A week or so later Dad received a letter to tell him what his new payment would be. We waited four weeks, until the next four-weekly payment cycle that Mum was on, expecting the balance of her pension to be paid. As they had adjusted Dad's, it was natural to assume they had sorted out Mum's as well, although the lack of a letter was a little concern. When no money arrived my Dad rang them. It turned out that they had updated his pension but had forgotten to do anything to Mum's. This time we were assured that the money would arrive within 10 days.

still waiting

The Bank

Dad went to the next town, to his bank, to get the joint account changed to a sole account. Paperwork was copied and the manager had him put his card into a machine, put his PIN in, so we assumed the changes had been made. Until the bank statement arrived, in joint names, followed by a new cheque book for Mum. Phone calls to the bank's call centre followed and Dad was dealt with by the bereavement team. They were apologetic and sympathetic, whilst they chased up the paperwork from the local branch. We waited. A letter turned up, from the bereavement services team, pointing out that Dad had not supplied the death certificate. Another phone call, another apology and more efforts made to locate the paperwork at the local branch. Finally a letter arrived to say that the account had been changed and they hoped Dad was happy with the service. A standard letter, after over a month of hassle. Somewhat predictably, the arrival of a new cheque book in just my Dad's name was more distressing than the joint statement had been, but that's not the point.

The Catalogue

Mum had an account with a catalogue. Shortly after her death they happened to ring with an offer for her, as they tended to do. Dad told them about her death and they said they would close the account. Shortly after that a bill arrived, which was not unexpected, but had been forgotten about temporarily. Dad sent a cheque, which cleared his account at the end of September.

Then a letter arrived, about ten days later, advising that the account had been referred to their "probate specialists". Just another name for a debt collecting agency. So Dad rang the people named in the letter, who had no knowledge of this and said he should await their letter. A letter for which they would no doubt charge. I advised him to try the catalogue company to ask them what was outstanding, as all bills received had been paid, to the best of his knowledge. They quoted the balance as being the value of the cheque they had banked. It eventually transpired that they had closed the account, with the outstanding balance, without waiting for any payment to come in, so when the payment did arrive it went to their suspense account. The person on the phone located the payment and said he would be able to apply it to the account. This was a week ago and we are waiting for written confirmation of this. In not expecting it to arrive: I'm expecting a letter from these debt collectors staying they have put a claim in against probate, along with a scale of additional charges for what they are doing. For a bill that has been paid.

We are wondering if the Pension Service have lied to us twice and won't, in fact, pay the balance of Mum's pension until we demand it via probate. If that turns out to be the case, my complaint is ready.

The minute a letter arrives from this debt collecting agency another complaint will be lodged, with the catalogue, and a copy sent to the debt collecting agency with clear instructions that the executor will not entertain any claim against the estate until this is sorted, not week any additional monies be paid.

Right now, I am ready for a fight. Almost every agency we have had to deal with has been incompetent and has caused the family distress that they didn't need in the depths of their grief.

]]>
Yes
I want what I want, not what I can get. https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2014/10/13/i-want-what-i-want-not-what-i-can-get Mon, 13 Oct 2014 13:58:00 +0000 Vanessa aaa377a1-73ef-1aeb-df78-862e7dfaaa78 I am in the mood for a new Freeview recorder. Or rather, my Dad is, more imminently than me, as his box is starting to be a bit precious about playback. It gave up pausing live TV a while ago, for some unknown reason.

Now, in my family we tend to like what we like. And we regularly fail to comprehend why we are not able to purchase a gadget which does exactly what we want it to, rather than what someone has decided what we will want it to do.

Last winter I thought my Freeview recorder had died - turned out it was my TV signal which had died, thanks to degradation caused by the flooding between me and the TV mast (on the Isle of Wight). Just in case, though, I started researching a replacement recorder. I use mine a lot, as, I suspect, a lot of people do. I sometimes watch catch-up TV on mobile devices, but the joy of skipping through the ad breaks with the push of a button or two is one of my guilty pleasures in life.

I thought I had settled on an updated Humax box, as I had been happy with my old one. Then I happened to read something that filled me with horror. The device had no rf loop through. After plugging the aerial into the box and out to the TV, the box has to be on in order to watch TV. The only other way was a splitter. I had already discovered I had a slightly (!) flaky signal in bad weather, did I really want to split it? No. Apparently it was an EU power-saving thing: in order for boxes to claim they were low power the standby setting had to switch everything off. Which seemed perverse as it would have resulted in my having the box on all the time, rather than only when watching a recording! Bureaucracy and the law of unintended consequences. I sulked, ranted sbout the EU, it rained, it stopped raining and my TV channels reappeared (all those nice 5*, Drama, Yesterday type channels were restored unto me).

Fast forward six months. My box still functions, apart from the occasional senior moment (like forgetting to record anything last Thursday evening), but now we are looking to replace my Dad's. Off I delve again.

Box 1.

• Has WiFi (nice, as TV is not near an Ethernet point).

• Has the ability to archive recordings to an external disc. Very handy, given HDD failure is a Thing.

• Has a setting for rf loop through (yaay common sense prevails).

• Has HDMI out (of course).

And that's it, aside from all the usual recording functions.

Great. Except that the existing box is connected to Dad's HiFi. It's not a home cinema wotnot. It's a HiFi receiver. Admittedly an old one, but it's a good one.  And radio recorded on Freeview played back through the HiFi sounds pretty good. Optical audio connectors? Not a chance. And in separate research we have yet to find the right new receiver for him. Or even tuner + amp, so the existing receiver stays.

Bye bye box 1.

Box 2

• Has WiFi (via a dongle).

• Has a setting for rf loop through (yaay again)

• Has HDMI out (of course).

• Has a scart socket, for what that's worth

• Has RCA audio sockets. Yaay! Off to the HiFi we can go.

Sadly the manual (yes I download all the user guides - doesn't everyone?) makes it quite clear that, whilst you can connect an external drive, you most specifically cannot copy video files across to it. Boooo!

I looked at a few other boxes, not that there are many. They all seem to have something missing. I will be in the same situation as my Dad. I run a NAD 7020 receiver and am not likely to ditch it any time soon. So it's RCA connectors for me, too. Ironically my CD player has optical out, which was great for transferring CDs to my MiniDisc back in the day. Now it just sits there, little red light glaring at me…

In summary, I want:

Freeview + HD recorder with

• The ability to archive/copy to external drive

• WiFi (preferably)

• HDMI

• RCA audio out

• Optical audio out (just in case…)

• A setting for rf loop through

I don't want much, do I? I just want what I want…

]]>
Yes
Heartbreak https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2014/09/14/heartbreak Sun, 14 Sep 2014 14:45:00 +0000 Vanessa 3d4fb317-0842-de37-925a-9aee4b05e65b On 28 August 2014 my lovely Mum died. It was unexpected. She was in hospital, but, if the doctors are to be believed, in no immediate danger, except that she died. That's about as much danger as a patient can be in, surely? They were all shocked and very sorry, but that doesn't bring her back. They hadn't worked out what was wrong with her and we will never know now. I suspect some post-viral "thing" that an immune system weakened by recent steroid treatment couldn't handle, but I'm not a doctor.  I could spend the rest of my life torturing myself with "what if"s, but that won't change things. Unfortunately, my slight obsessive tendencies may yet see this happening. Either way, I find myself in a situation where my whole world has changed, with a gaping hole in the centre of it where once resided a lovely lady who was also one of my best friends.

My Dad said he had lost his "life's sweetheart" and when he asked me: "do you think she knew I loved her?" my heart broke just a little bit more.

When I rang my brother to tell him he uttered a noise the like of which I had never heard before and I don't care to hear again.

This evening Dad told me he had found the burial record for his mother, who died shortly after he was born. The date was 19 September 1935. His wife's funeral is on 19 September 2014, 79 years later. He hadn't known of the connection, so this is sheer chance. Not a happy chance, but there does seem to be an element of symmetry there.

I know it is the natural order of things to lose one's parents and I have friends who lost a parent at a much younger age - my father never knew his mother. Right now that doesn't comfort me at all. Possibly because of the unexpected nature of this we all feel cheated. We feel that Mum was cheated too. She had plans, until she got a sore throat, which precipitated complete muscle weakness and death. I really don't think she expected not to be around. Cheated of seeing her grand-children growing up, they cheated of her love and wisdom. Cheated of time with family and friends, of living life as she always had: with grace, compassion and a huge sense of fun. And giggling. Much giggling at very random things, usually resulting in complete confusion on my father's part.

When I look around their bungalow I see the jumper she had nearly finished knitting and various quilting projects she was planning. There's a bolt of fabric somewhere that was going to be a summer dress. She had recently completed a set of four embroideries (I completed my set years ago) and they are waiting to be framed. I have just started a cross-stitch embroidery that she bought in July; her next project. She had put the canvas on the frame and started the first stitch. I shall complete it for her, even though each stitch feels like a stab in my heart at the moment. We discovered that she had just ordered some jewellery from a favourite company. On that order was a bracelet for me. It should arrive soon and I will treasure it. She hadn't planned to be anywhere other than here. I keep telling myself she'll be home soon. I expect everyone does that. Mind you, I still catch myself thinking of something I ought to tell my cousin: he died 16 years ago. I am sensing this won't go well for me. I read on the internet somewhere that after about 18 months things start to get better. Hmm, that's a long time.

Maybe I will just keep talking to her, telling her all the things I normally would. I wish I believed she would hear me, I really do, but I don't.

Tomorrow we go to say our final goodbyes, with the funeral on Friday. Wish me luck as I try to make it through the week in a manner that would make Mum proud of me.

]]>
Yes
Where did my brain go? https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2014/08/05/where-did-my-brain-go Tue, 05 Aug 2014 08:43:00 +0000 Vanessa 174e0a69-92df-0018-115e-88c077f11174 I used to have one. A brain, that is. I was very brainy when I was a kid. I still am, but nowadays I seem to struggle a lot more than I used to. I decided to use what is left of my brain to try to find out why.

Fatigue. This is definitely a factor, mental fatigue. I am tired and I seem to be perpetually tired. There is no medical reason for this, so it has to be down to my enivronment, or my attitude.

When I was younger, I used to get things done. No fuss, just high levels of productivity, in work and at home. Now I struggle massively. Since 2010 I have mostly worked from home. In 2011 I had a promotion, working on a different contract within the same company, still from home. In 2012 I moved house. More space - along with more housework and now gardening. I moved to a rural area, plenty of lovely countryside to explore. Yet I haven't, much. I finish my day at my desk and just want to close my eyes and switch my brain off. I end nearly every day feeling unsatisfied and exhausted.

As a result I decided I had to take a long look at why. What had changed with my work, or, more particularly, with my approach to my work?

As part of some management course I attended years ago, the group of us worked through the Belbin tests. At that time I wasn't a manager, just a team leader. I scored highly on the "completer finisher" and "monitor evaluator" traits. I thought then this was probably pretty reflective of my approach and personality and I still do. I have developed my leadership skills over the years, so now my chart looks a little different, but those two traits are still up there.

So this demonstrates my basic tendencies. I am analytical, I analyse processes and figure out where they can be improved. I also don't like leaving things unfinished. However, it has become apparent that my strengths are also my weaknesses. As a team member, I was given the freedom to work to my strengths: I got the complex work, the work that took a long time to complete, because I would see it to the end. My line manager would remove other distractions in order for me to do this. Now I am the manager. I have to do the same for my staff, but I also need to look at how I manage my work.

As most people do, I have a busy job, which could take all my time if I allowed it to. I have to deliver a service for my client, meeting contractual targets. I also have to beat those targets to maximise income for my employer. Recently my employer has embarked on an efficiency programme, for want of a better expression. More automated processes, more standardisation, investment in technology to drive savings. Great stuff, some of them things I have been asking for, for years. All of these things have become "projects", with (different) dedicated teams running them, all of which require input from me, often at short notice and with tight deadlines. Yes, you may be able to see where this is going…. My time was no longer my own: I lost control of my day. Whatever I planned could be usurped at a moment's notice.

In the end I, and a number of my colleagues, raised our concerns and people started to listen. The latest project, although still requiring my time, has involved me from the start. Conference calls were held, project plans shared, clear timescales and deadlines were communicated to all. As I had said previously: "if my involvement is needed for something that sits on your critical path, would it not be an idea to give me some notice of that"? Lessons learned, perhaps.

As a result of a perfect storm of staffing issues and these projects, my ability to achieve anything vanished. I resented the project work, as I perceived it as a hindrance to my "day job". Normally I love project work. I like the process review and the ability to deliver improvements. Yet, here I was, hating it. What I actually hated was the loss of control. Up to this point I had mostly been in control. I decided what service areas to focus on, what processes to improve, and I got results. Now I was getting nowhere with things I considered to be important. Or at least it felt that way. At the end of most days my to-do list had just got bigger. I began to feel completely impotent. I caught myself on a number of occasions, sitting at my desk, staring at my laptop, not even knowing what to start next. My decision-making abilities seemed to be non-existent. I think I got pretty close to the edge at one point. I just wanted to scream at people.

I thought about this and decided that it was primarily down to psychology. In my brain nothing has been achieved until it is finished. I am not very good at pacing myself. I have to complete things. I want to finish a book in one go, I want to learn a piano piece in a day, I want to complete a piece of sewing the same day. If I have decorating to do, it has to be completed: I can't leave something part-done for any length of time, so I work on it solidly. This is not always sensible or practical, I know. And yet, despite that, I am writing this blog post when I should be asleep. In my defence, I have broken the task down a little: writing now, reviewing is down for tomorrow (baby steps)… As another little test, I currently have a kitchen door that I have been working on. It isn't finished and I am working on it in stages. Walking away each day when I could do a little bit more is hard.

Naturally this mentality spills over into work. When I start a task, I want to finish it the same day. I now accept that I can't. As a result, my to-do list is changing. I now have headline tasks in Outlook. Yes, it is very basic, but it makes sense to keep things on the same laptop as I use for work, which is a locked down machine. Some things I plan using my iPad, particularly when I feel the need to mind-map, when I use the excellent iThoughts. I am learning to break down these over-arching tasks and my daily to-do list now comprises a reasonable (or necessary) sub-set. For example, say I have a complaint to respond to. This can take a few hours or a few days, depending on the complexity. Previously my to-do list would have said "complaint". Now it may only contain one small part of that complaint. I have many monitoring jobs to do. Instead of "statsl" on my list, resulting in a compunction to spend all my time on that task, my to-do list contains a smaller, more achievable sub-task, which I believe I can achieve, along with some other small tasks. I get ticks against my list, instead of a pile-up which stresses me out. And the jobs get done over time. Unlearning the habits of my working life thus far are hard, though. I still want to get every overall task finished yesterday, even though I understand that it isn't necessary. Most things have a deadline at least a couple of days away, enabling me to break them down. Previously I felt compelled to do everything as soon as it arrived: I could never leave things until they were due. Less so now. I do still stress that "something" will come up which means I will not be able to meet a deadline, so I pencil in my personal deadline a couple of days ahead whenever I can.

This approach means I force myself to spend a short period of time reviewing my overall tasks each morning, just to see where I am and allocate chunks of my day accordingly. I am sure that this is a Good Thing.

I am a work in progress, but then I imagine that we all are, and the point at which we stop believing that is the point at which we have lost all sense of reality.

]]>
Yes
Discoveries https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2014/08/02/discoveries Sat, 02 Aug 2014 00:55:00 +0000 Vanessa fff30524-c80e-0bc6-5f77-a04b8a58a0ff After about half an hour of trying, I accidentally discovered how to add a non-iTunes podcast to the stock iOS app. For once, Google was most definitely not my friend. Yes, there were instructions on the web about how to do this, but they all seemed to relate to an earlier (2012) version of the app. The only search option now seems to be to search the "store". In desperation I entered the url into Safari. Well blow me if that didn't then open the Podcasts app and ask me if I wanted to subscribe. So there you have it. Easy, when you know how.

To ensure I can remember this, I added a note to Onenote. Yes, I know there is Evernote (and I am writing this in Evernote, in my "drafts" folder, ready to move it to my "posts" folder and have it sync to 10 Centuries). But Evernote is so, well, green. I do use it, but I find myself using Onenote a lot more. It's purple. I like purple. But, more seriously, it's just nice-looking and powerful enough for me. Other apps are starting to offer integration with it too, though obviously Evernote is far better supported. Neither of them has useful mobile clipping options, though both work well on the desktop. Ironically, it was considering a premium subscription to Evernote that made me look at Onenote. I discovered that, for not a lot more money (thanks to an Amazon offer), I could purchase the 5-user version of Office 365. Bargain! Full Office suite as well. I have used Open Office for years and been reasonably happy with it. Less so recently, particularly when 

I had to test, and create a presentation for, some public-facing software for work. Our lockdowns meant the site didn't render properly on any work machine, so I was testing and taking screenshots on my own desktop. Manipulating those to create a presentation proved frustrating. So I weakened and opted for Office 365. I don't use all 5 licences, but it does mean my Dad gets Excel back in his life.

Onenote is impressive. The iPad app is also mighty impressive: the Android one less so. The last update for the iPad allows for organising of pages and creating sub-pages, something which annoyed me, as I had to do that on the desktop before. And I do like the pages within my subjects to be in alphabetical order. Ditto my subjects, apart from one, which stays on the left-hand side.

Word and Excel for iPad got updated too (Powerpoint also possibly, I don't currently have that on the iPad). Now I can send a file as a PDF right from the iPad. PDF export was the main reason I stuck with Open Office for so very long, as I use it extensively for creating craft instructions and also sheet music copies.

And don't get me started on cloud storage. I have bits here and there - basic Dropbox, some in Copy, some iCloud (I believe, never used it), some Google Drive. But Onedrive has just given me over 1TB of storage! I am impressed, although even that wouldn't be enough for a friend, who has that much in just his photos - long-time, seriously good photographer. For me, it's superb. I am now, slowly, copying files into the cloud. This will be a useful addition to my backup approach, which is to have 2 or 3 copies of important files on removable drives, one of which is only attached to my machine for the purpose of backups. Although some movies I have can't go up to Onedrive as I believe there is a limit on file size. Hey, nothing in life is perfect…

OK, it seems that a post about iOS has segued into an Office fan-girl one. But then that's me. I'm very much a cross-platform user (I have an android phone and tablet too). 

]]>
Yes
The Future of ADN https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2014/07/05/the-future-of-adn Sat, 05 Jul 2014 11:06:00 +0000 Vanessa 5c0e4bf6-f162-db1d-369d-3611a636a9e6 I enjoy being a part of app.net and I want to see it continue, I really do. No, this isn't a "we're all doomed" post, or at least it isn't intended to be. Rather, it's just my thoughts on some of the topics I have seen discussed recently. I offer no solutions. I can't. I'm not qualified to, nor do I have any expertise in the various areas of an undertaking like this. I work in an office. I can do basic programming, but my interaction with the internet is that of a user, a consumer.

I have one main question: why are people looking at changing the API? It already exists, it works. Maybe there is scope for extension/improvement: that I don't know. This seems to me like a group of geeks being, well, geeky. Sorry, but it does.

We all want ADN to succeed. Change the API, use a different one and you are moving away frorm the platform. You would need users to move to your version of it. That isn't ensuring ADN survives, it's killing it off, or at the very least dividing it up.

I believe this has been mentioned already by people, who know a lot more about the sbject than I do.

In my opinion, there are some fundamental things that need to be addressed:

Concept

Is this a playground for developers, or a network of social networks? Can it be both? It can't just be the former. We have seen that developing independently for the platform doesn't stack up financially. Mind you, does app development in general stack up? I really have no idea. I have to assume that it does, given the number of apps in the app stores (ones that are ad-free). The DIP was there to encourage development. What we got, with a few exceptions, was a plethora of Alpha apps, mostly for iOS. To be honest, on a platform with a small user base that was never going to be a winner. Sure, many of us bought most of the apps. Hell, I bought some that were iPhone-only and I don't have an iPhone.

We don't like Twitter because it killed indie apps. Even I agree that was bad - I never use the official app. However, there is one and it works well enough. Facebook has an official app for mobile platforms, which people use.

I think what I am getting at is streamlining things. There are good mobile Alpha apps for most platforms. Great. Leave it there. It's not feasible to make one the "official" app, but maybe one will become the de facto official app as others fall by the wayside. At some

point the community may have to find a way to get behind that app. So do it, plan for it.

If you want ADN to succeed you need users. Without gaining traction with users you have nothing. What do people want? That needs to be asked. I think the public perception is that ADN is a paid-for Twitter and that's it.

Pam Davis recently posted on this topic on ADN and she is quite right. (I would link to her posts, but I don't know how to, sorry). Dipping back in now and I see conversations are going on with Darren Tong, amongst others. Things seem to be coming together…

I can only use myself as an example. I like Twitter. It was dissatisfaction with Twitter that brought me to ADN, along with some other Twitter-buds. I stayed. They didn't. Why not? Because it was just like Twitter, only full of tech people. They wanted out of the aggro being caused on Twitter. They wanted to be free to express their opinions. What made them leave was the lack of private accounts. Not private patter rooms, they tried that. They wanted private accounts. I didn't, that didn't bother me. Having said that, I'm not aware that they have private Twitter accounts either, but that was why they said they left. And possibly whilst trying to avoid the trolling on Twitter, they found they actually missed it. Who knows. It was a shame, because one of the people who attempted the move had a massive following on

Twitter and did publicise his move. But the 50-follower restriction deterred a lot of them.

What would I like? I would like one place for all my social activities on-line. I use G+ for some things, facebook to keep in touch with friends, Twitter for some chat/news feeds and ADN for conversation. I have also said I would love to have an rss reader running from ADN and a podcast app too. Not sure about the last one so much. What I am fed up with is having an account here, an account there and another one over there. I would like to be able to share photos and status updates on a facebook-type thing with friends, then chat like I do on Alpha. That's why I thought G+ had potential, with it's "circles" approach. But then it's Google. I would like cross-platform messaging, which is why I use Hangouts. But what I want is for it to be super-easy to use and all from the one account; something that just works.

Branding

Let's face it, the branding is dreadful. I think everyone agrees on that. The name "app.net" explains the principles of the API, but it's pretty rubbish. The name for the micro-blogging proof-of-concept is dull. There is a Trello board for discussion of names for the service, most particularly Alpha, but also the API. I know some people have disparaged that recently and maybe they might actually decide to contribute to the discussion as a result. Maybe not.

I am a user, not a developer. App.Net was funded and establised as a platform for developers to build things for users. And for users to have things to use on a platform where they owned their data, unlike other well-known social networks.

With the recent publicity around the facebook experiments, amongst other things, surely now is a good time to be pushing this selling-point. "There is a place where you won't have to see ads, where nobody will try to manipulate your emotions, where nobody will re-order your timeline to suit what they want you to see. Sure, you have to pay a small amount, but then you get security, some cloud storage and lots of ways to interact with your friends". I know, unfortunately we are in a culture where people want everything for free and it seems that most of them are prepared to endure adverts and all this nonsense, to maintain the fiction of not paying. I don't know if that will ever change now. Although…. do people buy into the in-app purchase ethos of Google and Apple? Is there data on that anywhere? If they do, then perhaps that is something to consider. A subscription model that works like an in-app purchase. The basics are free, bells and whistles cost more. Again, I'm sure someone has mentioned this as a potential pricing structure. I think it has merit.

Unfortunately, as we have seen, it doesn't appear to have been a case of building it and watching people arrive, as the service has failed to make money. I have wondered about the wisdom of adding a free tier. I know some people were against it and I share their concerns, although without that free tier, I would not have joined. Why pay when you don't know if you will like something. Especially a social network with new people. Catch–22. So I think free accounts should stay, but the restrictions should be not on numbers followed, but on the ability to spam. How that can be done, I don't know. Not allowing these pourover/ifttt things (I'm sure you know what I mean, even if I don't). Capping the number of posts on any alpha-like network, maybe. Releasing additional features for money?

Broadcasts - what was that about? Was it bringing money into the service, or just about demonstrating the potential. I can see it might be useful, but failed to see the point, to be honest. Also failed to see where the revenue would come from. But then, what would I know

My last point is the most important:

Revenue

What is going to bring in money? Without that, it's a charitable exercise, probably doomed to fail in the end. How much revenue is needed and how do you get it. It has been said that there is the money to run the servers for some time, so should our efforts be focused on expanding the user-base and broadening the concept? Certainly how the service is funded has to be discussed and it needs to be costed, with options for potential take-up and different pricing structures. Would the ADN owners be open to conversations coming from the user base regarding changing the pricing structure? Or have they pretty much walked away from the business in their heads - another question to be asked.

I will leave this there. I think it is the most I have written on any subject since I was at university. And this is definitely the first blog post I will ever have posted a link to (assuming I can work out how to do that….).

ADN has some talented and generous-minded developers. It has users who want it to succeed and it has users with outside skills, in marketing, in business in general. Hopefully those who offer their time will be listened to. I think the ADNfuture team and their project has great potential, but it needs everyone's help. Can we build it…..?

]]>
Yes
The soundtrack to my life https://hazardwarning.me.uk/2014/06/29/the-soundtrack-to-my-life Sun, 29 Jun 2014 12:11:00 +0000 Vanessa cf4a7585-ef48-876c-5ba5-48a491cacbc3 I followed an exchange on App.net recently and listened to the podcast that followed. It was on music from the 1980s, the time when I was a teenager, from O-levels right through my university days. The people discussing the music were significantly younger than me and it made me think about the appreciation of music. I wondered if their opinions were based on how they felt about the music at the time, or how they felt about it now. Their ages meant they were likely in the same situation as I was in respect to music in the 1970s. It was there, I heard it, but it probably didn't carry a lot of meaning to me at the time. Whereas, the music of the 1980s marks signifcant milestones in my life - ones that I remember and that I associate with certain music.

I started to revisit my LP, singles and CD collections to see what I still had from that era and potentially compile a list of my favourites. While I was doing this, it became apparent that there was music I actually bought and listened to in the '80s, but also music from the '80s which I have come to appreciate since. If you had asked me in the '70s what I thought of The Bay City Rollers, my response wouldn't have been favourable. Similarly there was music of the '80s which I actively disliked at the time, but have since come to appreciate. Groups like Marillion and, most particularly, The Smiths. Back then, when my brother and his friends were wandering along the high street with foliage sticking out of the back of their trousers, I avoided The Smiths: I found their music quite simply depressing. Now? Now I love The Smiths. I guess my brother knew better than I did. Likewise he loved Kate Bush. I thought "Wuthering Heights" was screechy, though I did like some of her music. More recently I have purchased a lot of her output, having grown to appreciate it.

I think that understanding music and having it mean something to you has to be a very personal experience and is often informed by life events. It took me a long time to grow to like Wagner - I don't think I really appreciated it until I went through a particularly dark period of my life, thanks to illness. At that time, Wagner hit a nerve and I started to enjoy long periods of listening (is there any other way to listen to Wagner?). Let's face it, when looking at so-called classical music, a lot of composers were not appreciated during their lifetimes, only becoming popular after varying lengths of time. I don't really feel too bad about changing my opinion on music after only a few decades.

So yes, I have changed my opinion of some 1980s music, having looked back on it, but there are some bands that I loved then and still listen to today: Dire Straits, Prince, ELO, Queen and Pink Floyd. There were songs that I danced to, songs that I smooched to, songs I cried to and songs that I played over and over on my trusty cassette player. I had (possibly still have) a tape that alternated Bizet's duet from The Pearl Fishers with David Bowie's Life On Mars. Over and over. Why? Because, just because. I also had a tape which had Saint-Saēns' Third Symphony on one side, with César Franck's Symphony in Dm on the other side. I listened to those every day of a three-year music degree. I still listen to them now, albeit less frequently.

I will no doubt continue to evaluate and re-evaluate music - after all it's what I'm trained to do, but I also think it's part of the human condition. Music speaks to people in the most basic of ways. Music can trigger memories in quite remarkable way and the human race is so very lucky to have that. My tastes will change and I will adopt and discard music along the way. Some music that I absolutely loved has been discarded because the memories attached are too painful. Maybe I will get back to it in the future, once the associations have faded, who knows. As it stands I have a lot of Oysterband CDs that rarely get played…

]]>
Yes