Bessie Ellen

Bessie Ellen is Britain’s last wooden coasting ketch still under sail. She traded during the final era of sail when these ships were an everyday sight in the small ports and harbours throughout Britain.

This is rather hypnotic, especially watching it on a sunny morning.


Mars Simulation in the Utah Desert

This is a bit weird, and there’s more detail on Mashable, but essentially a six-person team lives in the ‘Mars Desert Research Station’. Crews pay $500 to rent the module and pretend they were living on the Red Planet. I suppose it might be fun for a little while and, though the psychological impact probably wouldn’t be anywhere near as close, at least you’re away from the distraction of social media.



So I’ve finally finished building all of the beds, about 14 months after we took on the plot. Here’s how it looked back then, by the way. Currently there are loads of seeds doing what seeds do, fruit bushes developing nicely, potatoes beginning to surface, and onions roaring away (well, where pheasants haven’t rooted them up out of curiousity). It’s been a much more gentle pace to the start of the growing year, so I’ve enjoyed the strike-force of robins that scour the earth for worms, the sparrow-hawk that scour the hedgerows for robins, and the field mouse that scampers along the hedgerow doing who-knows what. And the skylark song filling the air.


Literary Links

It’s been a while since I’ve highlighted some literary links that have caught my eye recently. First up, there’s a big decline in male readers:

McNab, who served in the SAS before turning bestselling author with Bravo Two Zero, was responding to a new study for the Reading Agency conducted by by OnePoll, which found that 63% of men admit they don’t read as much as they think they should. Almost 30% of men went so far as to admit to researchers that they hadn’t really picked up a book since they were forced to read at school.

Not to take anything away from the point, but I remember from my time as a bookseller over a decade ago that the lack of male readers was a big concern even then. I’m not sure anything has changed, or that things are even worse. I mean, could consider myself one of the 63% that wished they could read more – my reading pile is getting obscene.

In response to this, the Telegraph publishes 10 books to get men reading. A curious collection, at best. As a former bookseller, I’d shove them into the crime and thriller section as a good place to start – largely because many of those books are designed specifically to engage and keep the pages turning. That’s ideal for people who don’t read much.

Speaking of which, world’s best-selling author James Patterson spills the beans on how to write an unputdownable story.

Finally, Juliet McKenna has some thoughtful things to say over at the Guardian about the literary potential of Science Fiction and Fantasy.