The Ides of April – Lindsey Davis

The Ides of April - Lindsey Davis
The Ides of April – Lindsey Davis

Back to my normal speedy reading standard with the start of what looks to be a smashing  new (to me) series from Lindsey Davis.

More Roman Crime Fiction, but this time featuring Falco’s adopted Briton daughter, Flavia Albia. She’s as hardnosed and sassy as her dear old dad, and as self aware as her Patrician mama.


Very pleased I’ve got the next two in the series ready and waiting on my bookshelves… Thank you, AbeBooks.

Can’t wait to meet some of the old crowd again 🙂

Author page: The Ides of April – Lindsey Davis

Herefordshire Week 027: Tuesday 30 June – Monday 06 July 2020

Ewyas Harold Shop. Asda Shop. Tesco Shop.

Nepal 2019 photobooks created and ordered.

Chainsaw lesson No. 1. Gardening.

And a good walk, in good company, up the Cats Back and along Hatterall Ridge to Hay Bluff.

Panorama, looking north from Hay Bluff
Panorama, looking north from Hay Bluff

Tuesday morning had been designated Big Shop day, but we had enough supplies to keep us going until Friday, so Phil and I walked over to Ewyas Harold to top up at the Shop (the world’s most expensive bananas, bread flour, eggs) and Mailes’ (quiche, milk). On the approach to the till, a doughnut fell into my bag too. There are two varieties on offer – St Mary’s and A. N. Other (Hay? Peterchurch?). Should have bought one of each! Next time.

The big shop was on Friday morning, making use of Asda’s Click & Collect. Frustratingly several “not availables” surfaced during the week, so, spotting Tesco’s was also now open from 7am, I went there en route to do the fruit and veg shopping, and to get the items Asda didn’t have. Not a fan of Tesco’s fruit and veg offering – limited and expensive. No queues to get in at either supermarket, once the initial early birds were allowed in.

Anyway, All Done for another month.

Oh, and Tuesday’s other highlight was getting notification emails for two of my many February flood / March onwards COVID-19 train ticket refunds. And spotting a third had already hit my bank balance without mention. That leaves five to go…

Made it to VWW on Wednesday and Family Zoom with dad and Jean on Thursday.

The rest of Friday was dedicated to creating the Nepal 2019 photobook in Blurb. I was spurred into action by their offer of 30% off plus free shipping, which is about as cheap as they get, and the offer ended Monday.

In the absence of one of Charles’ schematic maps, I had been planning to create a map with Excel’s 3D Map tool but I gave up on that. It seems more designed for displaying sales/quantities-tied-to-place data rather than trekking routes.

So, given I had all the data nicely organised in excel, I created an elevation graph instead. Yes, I LOVE SPREADSHEETS!

Mera Peak - Amphu Lapsta Pass - Island Peak: Elevation graph
Mera Peak – Amphu Lapsta Pass – Island Peak: Elevation graph

Ordered five photobooks with delivery to their respective recipients. Another “job” ticked off the To Do List.

Dad and Jean came over on Saturday morning, and I had my first lesson on the chain saw. Dad cut branches off the hazelnut tree that’s developed more of a lean since the branches on the other side were removed by Western Power, and also a couple of branches from the wild plum that were shading the red hazelnut bush. I had my lesson cutting up the plum branches. Chainsawed chunks are now drying out in the log shed, and the remnants dragged to the quarry for bonfiring, which will have to wait until it’s less windy. Hopefully next weekend as the pile is growing.

A greenfingered Kerrys Gater has put out a table of surplus aubergine, courgette, pepper, tomato and lavender plants, with a donations jar. I walked up on Saturday morning to get 1 x courgette to for me and 1 x pepper for Jean, and added a lavender on impulse. And then I walked back again as far as Hill Farm to collect horse manure 🙂

A gorgeous evening.

Golden Ale on a Golden Evening in the Golden Valley
Golden Ale on a Golden Evening in the Golden Valley

Spent the whole of Sunday gardening – mowed, strimmed, lopped and snipped. Very satisfying.

On Monday, with lockdown in Wales lifted, Steffi and Carmen made an early start from West Wales to cross the border for a day on the English side of the Brecon Beacons.

We headed over to Longtown, in the valley at the foot of Hatterall Ridge and climbed up via The Cats Back, continuing on to Hay Bluff before heading back via the Olchon Valley. Wonderful views and So Many Greens!

On The Cat's Back, looking back towards Longtown
On The Cat’s Back, looking back towards Longtown
Hay Bluff Trig Point
Hay Bluff Trig Point
Olchon Valley and Hatterall Ridge
Olchon Valley and Hatterall Ridge

We ended up walking 17 miles – a bit more than planned. We were all very grateful for Phil’s flapjack (plus a pot and a half of tea) when we got back, followed by butternut squash curry. Just right.

Photos from Herefordshire week 27. Monday’s walk has now materialised….

Herefordshire Week 026: Tuesday 23 – Monday 29 June 2020

Horridly hot and humid week, followed by a wet and windy weekend. But “good for the garden” (which has got even greener), and featuring a conservative conservatory lunch with dad and Jean.

It’s been WAY too hot and humid here this week. Thursday night was unbearable. Even after a 10pm stroll up to Kerrys Gate and back before bed, I ended up going to sit on one of the comfy chairs in the conservatory and slept there for for a couple of hours.

Hatterral Ridge and Hay Bluff, from Kerrys Gate
Hatterral Ridge and Hay Bluff, from Kerrys Gate

London would have been worse though.

Phil and I really don’t know how we’ll decide about whether “here” is the new “home” or not. Right now, we are loving it. But the past few months have all felt a bit unreal. That said, the only benefit of being back in London I can see is being able to see friends there. I’ll probably have to work from home some of the time, and our flat isn’t set up for that, and all the social/cultural things, even if they’re open, will be weird. I really can’t imagine going to the cinema, or going into a pub once winter comes. 2021 is going to be strange. Anyway, we’re here until the end of September, and enjoying ourselves – am I allowed to say that?

LED Trustee Meeting over Zoom on Tuesday, VWW with Hazel (v nice to catch up), Wine Zoom with Kirsten and Justine (and back to another 90 mins work afterwards; it was only a small glass of wine), Family Zoom on Friday. Socialising over the internet is still going strong.

We got an email about returning to the office this week – no dates and a clear message that it would be voluntary once the office does start to open up. It’s what seems to be the fairly standard phase 1, phase 2 approach, team/week 1 / team/week 2. The biggest hurdle is going to be the lifts. We’ve been allocated exclusive use of 2 of the 5 lifts on each side of the lift shaft, but with only 2 people allowed into a lift at any one time it’s going to take a while to get even 40% of our workforce to their desks – let alone “from”. All in all, I can’t see us returning to ‘normal’ anytime soon.

On Friday, out of the blue, I got an email from Ang Rita Sherpa, the current chairman of The Partners Nepal, asking if he could use some of my photos from Gokyo and Khumbu in a book he is working on about Climate Change in the Himalayas (A Case from Solukhumbu). The book is to raise awareness on Climate Change and its impact on the local environment and local livelihoods, and proceeds will go to The Partners Nepal’s projects in Solukhumbu.

Climate Change in the Himalayas
Climate Change in the Himalayas – The Partners Nepal

I would have said “yes” in any event, but I’m even more delighted to as Val knows the family well and we visited his mum for morning tea when we stayed in Khunde towards the end of 2016’s Off and On the Beaten Track in Solukhumbu.

Val and Ama Dooli, Khunde
Val and Ama Dooli, Khunde

Fresher weather arrived on Friday, so I got out for a walk along the lanes in the morning and spent the afternoon pottering in the garden – planted my radish trays into bigger pots, and sowed some more lettuce.

Radishes potted up, plus more lettuce seed planted
Radishes potted up, plus more lettuce seed planted

The herb bed and extension are jam packed – lush and green. Lovely. The sunflowers have suddenly had a growth spurt and the pumpkin plants have flowers and a couple of small yellow orbs have appeared… I’m getting quite obsessed.

A Proto-Pumpkin!
A Proto-Pumpkin!

(Also getting quite obsessed with Mabel and Olive. But I’m not alone there.)

At least Sunday’s rain showers meant I haven’t had to water the lettuce and radishes in the “herb bed” (and extension) this week. We are certainly not going to run out of salad.

We are certainly not going to run out of salad!
We are certainly not going to run out of salad!

Phil’s mum turned 80 this week. Sue found a local lady who runs a cake-making business and ordered a birthday cake – it looked amazing! We FaceTimed at lunch to find Janet sat outside in the garden for a socially distanced birthday picnic lunch with some local friends and neighbours. Clearly big birthday celebrations can cope with COVID, even if they’re a bit different 🙂

Saturday started off badly. I deleted my Facebook account a long time ago and I loathe it as a thing. But we use it to keep friends and supporters updated on LED (Light Education Development, aka Val’s charity) activity and donations, and I had some posts to do following Tuesday’s Trustees’ Meeting.

I spent two hours struggling to do anything on Facebook. Let alone post anything. I’m getting “too many redirects” when I try to log in from Chrome or Safari from my mac, and the same on Chrome on my work laptop. In IE I can log in but the page doesn’t load.

Phil found this work around, which includes a link to this blog post about the same issue.

The work around worked….

…. Only for me to discover that it looks like we can’t schedule posts any more. So I ended up publishing the series of posts I’ve planned to space out over a couple of weeks all in one go.

After that I couldn’t face trying to fathom out how to fix the problem permanently. I’d already spent time futilely searching for help on Facebook and there’s no support contact details. Obviously.


So after a stomp around the garden, I settled down in the conservatory and finished Hilary Mantel’s 900+ page The Mirror & The Light, which I started in the middle of May.

The Mirror & The Light - Hilary Mantel

On Sunday, Dad and Jean came for lunch: quiche and salad, accompanied by the very nice bottle of white wine Annette and Michael gave us for Christmas / moving in back in January. It was lovely to see Dad and Jean, even if the patio dining plan was stymied by the heavy rainy showers that came sweeping across all day.

In between downpours we did manage to get out for a stroll around the grounds, and on Monday, after I’d done the Kerrys Gate – Cockyard – Camp Crossroads route and sent Ang Rita the photos in the morning, Phil and I staked up the dwarf apple tree and the growth-spurt sunflowers, and I took some photos of the pumpkin flower, the now-securely staked sunflowers and the red hazelnuts.

Remarkable red hazelnuts
Remarkable red hazelnuts

My dad keeps reminding me that the squirrels will harvest the hazelnuts and walnuts the second they’re ripe and that all we will see is the leftover leaves and shells. We’ll see…..

Photos from Herefordshire week 26. No hanging about this week!

The Mirror & The Light – Hilary Mantel

The Mirror & The Light - Hilary MantelEnfin, Fin.

A long read, this one. Partly due to size – at over 900 pages it’s a long read (and the hardback, which is the version I was reading, was that bit too unwieldy to read in bed) plus it’s a dense read.

The chapters are long, functioning more like sections to designate key timespans, which made it all too easy to stop after a short chunk rather than getting to the end of a chapter which I find sometimes helps me get properly into a longer book.

I’m sure the general weirdness of the (first) year of COVID-19, and the long days of “working from home”, haven’t helped my powers of concentration either.

In particular I found the early/middle sections harder to get through than the other two books, but once I got to Anne of Cleves I was back in the zone.

Goodbye Cremuel.

Author page: The Mirror & The Light – Hilary Mantel

Once I’d finished, I looked up some of the names on Wikipedia. Close this review now if you don’t know how Cromwell’s story ends.

Henry VIII was shown portraits of both Anne of Cleves and her younger sister, Amalia of Cleves, as possible post-Jane Seymour brides. Amalia does not look like a docile damsel in the slightest.  In fact she looks like a young woman who has a mind of her own, and determination to match. Perhaps that’s why she never married.

An unidentified woman by Hans Holbein the Younger.jpg
An unidentified woman by Hans Holbein the Younger (but possibly Amalia of Cleves)

By Hans Holbein, Public Domain, Link

And “Call-Me” (aka Thomas Wriothesley) looks decidedly duplicitous in this portrait by Hans Holbein the Younger:

Thomas Wriothesley, 1st Earl of Southampton by Hans Holbein the Younger.jpg
Thomas Wriothesley, 1st Earl of Southampton by Hans Holbein the Younger

By Hans Holbein – Metropolitan Museum of Art [1], Public Domain, Link

Herefordshire Week 025: Tuesday 16 – Monday 22 June 2020

Conservatory casualties. Muggy downpours = greenery galore. Father’s Day BBQ. Longer walks.

No photos for one of the week’s main events – on Tuesday morning I found two female blackbirds, dead on the patio. They’d flown head first into the conservatory windows, despite the yellow post it notes and hovering birds of prey transfers. I wondered if the change in the weather – to much more humid conditions, with sporadic heavy downpours, might be partly to blame. Later in the day, Phil spotted a male recovering on the patio. It died in the early evening. All a bit sad.

It doesn’t help that I’m too squeamish to deal with the dead, of any species.

I fled the scene, doing the shorter Cockyard – Duffryn Farm – Wellfield loop.

Work’s got even busier, and the signs of the stress and strain of working from home are starting to show in earnest. Having failed to make VWW and worked late Thursday as family Zoom had moved to Friday, I worked Friday morning to break the back of a couple of larger automation projects, and feel more on top of things as a result.

It helped that Friday morning was wet.

The very rainy few days haven't ended
The very rainy few days haven’t ended

On the plus side, the garden is very green after a very rainy few days, there’s lots of Loosemore Lettuce and the tomatoes (and chillies) are thriving in their ASDA growbag.

Montage: Garden greenery
Montage: Garden greenery

On Saturday, I planted out some of the radish seedlings and the last of the junior lettuce. I had been protecting them in the conservatory during the deluges, but as it turned out, the veg patch radishes were doing much better in comparison. I’d been rather profligate in my radish seed sowing into the recycled seed trays, so I’d filled the rest of the spare space in the veg bed with the occupants of only one of the trays. Hmm. Good job I like radishes.

Lettuce and radish seedlings planted out into the Extension
Lettuce and radish seedlings planted out into the Extension

Elsewhere, apples, wild plums, hazelnuts and walnuts are burgeoning, elderflower berries are emerging and the pond lilies are looking lovely.

We have new neighbours in Thistly Field:

New neighbours: cows in Thistly Field
New neighbours: cows in Thistly Field

The Sheep Field is still vacant though.

On Sunday morning I did a longer walk, extending the usual Bacton Square: Kerrys Gate and Riverdale as usual, then turning off the B4347 and walking up past Bacton’s St Faith’s Church and on to the junction with Tremorithic Road – where there were magic views out over Hatterrall Ridge – before walking back towards the Common, dropping down into Abbey Dore on Cwm Road.

Signposts and post box at the Tremorithic Road / "Bacton Road" T junction
Signposts and post box at the Tremorithic Road / “Bacton Road” T junction

The extension pretty much doubles the route.

In the afternoon, we headed over to dad and Jean’s for another smashing BBQ. A Father’s Day FEAST:

BBQ with dad and Jean
BBQ with dad and Jean

I really want to get over to Longtown, to walk The Cat’s Back, but Monday proved a bit too breezy, and I’m a bit nervous about getting right up onto the border when Wales is still on a 5 mile lockdown, so I satisfied my wanderlust with a new, slightly random, route over to Ewyas Harold, up towards Rowlestone and a meander around Lower Maescoed before dropping back down into Dulas at The Old Trout Inn.

Monday marathon
Monday marathon

After taking the footpath round the back of Abbey Dore Court and across the field to Dore Abbey, I tried a different footpath up onto the Common from the abbey: not entirely successful as a field with cows, calves and a bull meant I deviated from the direct route – but I did discover that the farm on Cwm Hill is a deer farm. Which might explain the escapees we’ve seen roaming around…..

At the EH end of the Common, I managed to find the footpath back down to School Lane, and continued out the other side of the village along Prill Lane – Rabbit Lane – The Hill Road.

Rabbit Lane is a bit of a misnomer – it’s the sunken road we walked down as kids, and whilst it starts off with tarmac it swiftly turns to an overgrown track, then path, then stream bed before you reach a steep cobbled section that brings you out on The Hill Road. I acquired a handy stick for restraining nettles and bramble shoots. Slow going.

And I’ve just spotted that Google maps shows Rabbit Lane as a road…. HA!

At the top of The Hill Road I turned right onto The Wigga, right again at the junction with Lower House Road, and left onto Wern Ddu at Balls Cross. I love the blend of English and Welsh names as we get ever closer to the border. Ddu = Black. Maes = Field. Coed = Wood.

Left onto the Longtown road for a short spell, then right onto what Google has as “Old School Mid Mc”, which I think is likely to be Old School [Road?] Middle Maes-Coed. Anyway, it was the first side of the square to Lower Maescoed, The Common Road providing sides 2 and 3, with Lower Maescoed at their corner and side 3 returning me to the Longtown road, for a downhill run to The Old Trout Inn.

Over Dulas Brook, up Mill Lane, footpaths over the fields to Tremorithic Road, then Cwm Road down into Abbey Dore and the road route home.

6 hours on mainly roads = tired legs! But a great walk. The Cat’s Back, Hay Bluff and Hatterrall Ridge were almost within touching distance from Wern Ddu.

Hatterrall Ridge: The Cat's Back, Hay Bluff
Hatterrall Ridge: The Cat’s Back, Hay Bluff

I’ll be back.

TV: Sharp Objects, season 1 (VG) with a sprinkling of Staged for light relief, plus a touch of The Trip to Greece – I fear the theme has worn thin – plus episode 1 of The Luminaries … “hmm, we’ll see”.

Podcasts: The National Archives Podcast Series (which goes back to 2006, so that’ll keep me going for a while), and Wind of Change – excellent, especially if you remember the time and the tune.

Here are the photos from week 25….. although it’s too sunny to Flickr the 117 photos from yesterday’s walk, so you’ll have to wait for those. It’s time to paint the tree house.