2018 Weeknote 2


A quieter week than last week – weather-wise, certainly. Mostly quite grey, with a few sunny spells.

Work settled down, and the second week of the new year was a more normal one. To be expected. It wasn’t without its highlights; there were a number of small problems or queries that I felt armed adequately to tackle. And it reminded me yet again that that’s the job satisfaction I seek most – to find problems and to solve them. It’s reassuring that this can be sought in many arenas.

This week has been dominated by listening to, thinking about, and rambling about radio. More so than usual! I haven’t been doing much shortwave listening lately. But I have been re-familiarising myself with DAB and FM.

DAB occupies a weird part of my mind in terms of it having slowly – very slowly – become mainstream. Is it even mainstream yet? It is its own thing. Despite all this, I find enough elements about it to fascinate me. The variety of receivers. The number of available stations. The different stations that are available locally and nationally, and the weird way these are transmitted. I read with interest a Government consultation attempting to get smaller local/community stations on DAB – partly because, due to the nature of how DAB stations are transmitted, they can’t fully mimic local FM stations in terms of reach and coverage.

And FM is a constant source of interest, particularly a built-up area like north west London. Reception of big stations is rock-solid almost anywhere. Local stations are diverse and numerous. And pirate stations are as ubiquitous as legitimate ones. At home, I’m as confident in the strength of Divine 97.9 (drum’n’bass; occasional shout-outs to listeners) as I am Radio 4 when testing a new radio. If Divine goes down, I’m arming the warheads.

This surge in interest in radio was helped along by Megan and I staying in a rather gorgeous Airbnb before the new year which had a decent radio in the kitchen and a good hifi system in the lounge. It was also the kind of house one wishes to simply be in, so the radio was on a lot.

We wake daily to Radio 4, but we don’t really have the radio on at other times. It was the Airbnb that reminded us we both love to do this. So since then we’d been using my little portable radio as background noise, with an eye on a new DAB receiver with a good speaker. And this week we picked up a great Pure radio which was on a sporadic reduction at the supermarket. So radio now fills the flat while we’re cooking, pottering, tidying, etc. It’s been great.

My first set-up listen meant I caught a recent Peter Broderick track on 6 Music. And all week I’ve heard various Radio 4 comedy shows which are usually at least half-decent. We caught the first episode of Angstrom, a parody of Scandi-noir murder mysteries, which several times had me guffawing like a loon.

And I’ve been tuning in to Resonance FM on my way to and from work. They don’t have breakfast shows per se, so you end up catching repeats of some really diverse shows. I caught an Americana and bluegrass show one morning, a Sunday afternoon folk show another morning. And in the evening a well-written show about cyber security and so on. Up till now the only Resonance show I’ve sought out was One Life Left, the video game show by friends-of-friends. But I’ve known for a long time the fantastic variety in Resonance’s line-up, so it’s been good to begin to embrace it this new year.

Another activity that’s taken up some time this week is a somewhat frantic re-arrangement of the living room furniture. This happens every few months, and the latest re-shuffle was brought about by the removal of the Christmas tree. It’s made the space feel fresh and open and new.

It’s been nice to spend some dark evenings in the new arrangement, playing some old videogames, and watching some films. I finally caught up with Ron Howard’s Beatles documentary, which was just what I’d hoped it would be. And we randomly stumbled on Serendipity, a weird little rom-com from 2001 starring John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale (not Helen Baxendale who, it turns out, is a completely different person). It turned out to be great fun. One of those cute but slightly out of leftfield storylines thanks to some quirky movie magic, and at times it felt like it could have been a prequel to High Fidelity, with Cusack’s character occasionally merging into Rob Gordon territory.

I’ve also done some fun cooking this week, and particularly this weekend, as Megan’s dad brought over some of the bulkier Christmas presents we’d left at theirs, including a huge stock pot, a multi-function stick blender, sourdough baking ingredients, and other kitchen accessories. I still need to follow recipes practically word for word. But I’m getting good results. And making pesto from scratch is sheer heaven.

I made more progress on the new website I’m building for a client. It’s been mostly smooth sailing – touch wood – with a few little niggles here and there. I hope that with another session next weekend it’ll be ready to hand over and go live.

Finally, we ended the week, as last week, with a ramble on Hampstead Heath. I don’t think we’ll spend every Sunday there, but it’s not a bad place to have nearby. This morning we tried to head over a little earlier than normal and it was good to blow away the cobwebs and enjoy some space before it got a little busier.

We saw a sparrowhawk, a green woodpecker, and a wren or three, as well as some of the more usual feathered friends. We also noticed a surprising number of blossom buds on certain trees.


2018 Weeknote 1

The first week of any year always plays havoc with one’s sense of time, and normality. It’s helped that this year most of us went back to work on the 2nd, thereby ensuring the engine got started sooner after the new year break than usual. Even so, there’s still some amount of that engine ticking over reluctantly until the first full week back at it.


This week was met with a winter storm that blew over a fair few trees and knocked a few roof tiles loose. At work this meant a number of calls about trees, though mercifully few that we were responsible for. And no injuries or even big upheavals as far as I can tell.

The worst we had was a large Beech which blew into one of our allotments – it’s strange how dignified a tree remains even at 90° to its usual position. This one in particular, its multi-stemmed, mutated trunk aside, maintained a spidery, intricate grace, the vast scale of which was more easily grasped at close quarters than at its usual lofty height.


The re-worked flowerbeds at Sunshine Corner look nice and sharp. Bare, of course, but neatly marked out with metal edging and good compost. The new beds have been turned, like the Beech tree, by 90°. The darker bed in the photograph above is the new one.

No plants are visible yet as they were delivered to us in their winter slumber. It’s alarming how thousands of pounds of plants can turn up looking for all the world like little plastic pots with nothing but soil and a twig sticking out of it.

There are murmurings that this is perhaps not the right treatment for Sunshine Corner’s unique position at the boundary between town and country; that the original vision of this division calls for a softer transition. More appropriate, some say, would be a hierarchy leading from the wildness of Hampstead Heath(!) along Heathgate to the crown atop the Suburb: Lutyens’ formal Central Square.

But nothing is permanent – not least in landscaping. It’s an experiment, just like the meadow planting was an experiment that we gave a few years to prove itself before moving onto this new scheme.

There’s nothing that makes you look with some bewilderment at a long list of unlistened-to podcast episodes like a week or two away from the usual routine of hoovering them up daily. Some pruning to be done there, I think.

20180102_185049.jpgI did my best to soften the return to work by taking Megan and I to the theatre on Tuesday night – the Park Theatre in Finsbury Park. The play was Daisy Pulls It Off, a very jolly-hockey-sticks, 1920s tale of a girl who wins a scholarship to a posh boarding school, and the clash of personalities that ensues.

It’s all done for laughs, and the theatre itself is very intimate, so the winks and nudges are seen and felt at very close quarters. The actors almost burst with enthusiasm and made very effective use of the deliberately sparse set.

We loved it.

I’ve read with satisfaction some friends’ round-ups of 2017. Being pals of mine, they generally contain a healthy mixture of optimism, self-reflection, modest ambition, and gratitude. I’m in two minds whether to attempt one, but reading those of others has at least meant ten minutes spent listing a few highlights of my own – and more than just a few, which was very pleasing.

Along with some of these year-end round-ups has been some friends making plans for the year ahead, including – again – a mixture of the ambitious and the modest. And – again – it’s put a few ideas into my head as well.

Relatedly, I remain forever grateful that I still have blogs to follow via RSS* – some written by people I know, some not. Always inspiring and interesting though. Email newsletters are good, too. But, like podcasts, it can feel bad to fall behind.

* For a while I had been trying out Inoreader but I’ve just gone back to Feedly for some reason. It’s surprisingly easy to switch between the two, but then that’s the beauty of an open standard(?) like RSS, OPML and the like.

Today, to walk off some of the week’s enthusiastic cooking sessions, we capped the week off with a nice long walk on Hampstead Heath – together with about a million other people (and their dogs). The Heath is too hard to resist on cold, crisp days such as this. We even stumbled into the Dairy, by Kenwood, which it turns out is open every first Sunday of the month.


Inside, we found an immaculately restored tearoom, opposite an immaculately restored dairy room, complete with marble basins. The Dairy is very well designed, being built atop an ice house to keep the whole place cool into the summer months (ice would have been brought up from the pond at the bottom of the lawn), and a fountain in the centre for fresh water (making use of one of the many springs that rise up all over the Heath).

It was the perfect Sunday afternoon for a wander on the Heath. We refuelled at Carluccio’s before walking down the hill back to West Hampstead.


Finally, I have one or two new extra-curricular projects on the cards, including a new website for a literary society. I’ve done routine web admin for the Katherine Mansfield Society for a number of years and enjoy the two itches it scratches for me. I’m very flattered that it’s led to me being offered other, similar roles.