It is what it is [206]

Greetings from my shed...

There is something philosophically comforting with the phrase ‘It is what it is.’ A wonderful nugget of certainty during uncertain times.

How have you been coping?

This will be the last regular email from me. Yes I know Friday will never be the same. But things have been different for a little while now. So let’s embrace it.


My sleep patterns have been chaotic. Four hours one night, seven the next. And my dreams… Well they are hazy novellas. Too fleeting to hold onto, too deranged to completely forget. I’m not the kind of person who is able to nap. Wish I was. Besides, home schooling makes that impossible.

We focused on story telling in class one day. I started with the basics… Once upon a time somewhere, something happened. And then I brought out the ‘Story Mountain’ and had the kids write short stories.

My 8 year old daughter’s story began:

Some people think the smell of chopped carrots is a nice smell. Not me. Because I am a carrot.

My name is Herbert and for the last two days I have been planning my escape.

I think i’m enjoying school as much as they are. Especially when they got to build a radio.

Geography involved a game of Risk.

I was blue and chose to show no mercy. It was the first time any of us had played the game and I became quite the megalomaniac.

The kids relax at the end of the day with books or cartoons. Even teacher gets time to unwind. Mostly with a drink of some kind.

This is what popping to the pub now looks like…

Adrian, Dave, Richard and myself used Jitsi to replace our monthly jaunt up the pub. It was good for the soul.

If you would like to recreate drinks up the pub you could try this platform. Or maybe you used to work in a pub. The same platform will enable you to recreate your old pub (or a different one) and even take tips from your customers/guests/friends. It’s currently a work in progress from the guys who make Backpack Studio. See you there later?

This morning I managed to get out of the house on a covert mission. I had to travel cross country, under the radar, to a nearby village. I was there to install a collinear antenna for a local HAM Radio operative who lost all his aerials in a recent storm.

Bob suffered a spinal injury during a gliding accident and finds it difficult working above head hight. We observed the safe distance and under his expert instruction (he’s had his licence over 40 years!) I was able to get his new antenna in place.

Happy his radio shack is operational again he certainly felt this, in the current crisis, was necessary travel. I felt the same.


Great photo project linked to me via Tomo Thompson.

“As long as I know how to love I know i’ll stay alive.”


From Jackalope to Jackrabbit.

I spotted a jackalope on this Public Collectors zine. Filled with Radio history and art from the social media of the 70’s. At least I think it’s a hornless jackalope and not just a giant Jackrabbit.

Then an hour later a jackrabbit popped up in my garage when I uncovered an old 1973 issue of Rolling Stone with an article from Hunter S. Thompson.

What the virus said.


Telescope: Life in the time of corona. Stories about living through the pandemic. You can listen here before subscribing.

Writ Large. A podcast about books that changed the world.

My lad turned 11 this week. Some of you remember the first sound he ever made outside of the womb. Thankfully he is easy to please and had a great day.


This week I ruined a potentially great chicken soup by putting green peppers in it.

Won’t do that again.

Luckily I redeemed myself by making flat bread pizza bases in a hot pan before piling on the toppings and popping them in the oven.

Just mix flour, olive oil, salt and knead till smooth. Then roll out some bases and bake for 10 mins. I was short on time so I cooked mine on a super hot pan for only a few minutes before brushing with a little more oil, adding toppings and finishing in the oven for 10 mins.

There was a cold wind over the weekend. Cold enough to warrant a hip flask on the dog walk.

And yet next week 22 degrees is forecast.

My titanium Snow Peak hip flask (pictured above) cost five times more than these rip off versions that are out now. Looks identical.

There are some Amazon links in this email. It’s been many months since Amazon has sent me a voucher so don’t worry about me retiring just yet. If more people became members of this dispatch i’d cease all these shady dealings. ;-)

Besides, properly subscribing to this will be the only way to get the ‘good’ stuff now.


The Honda CT125 Hunter Cub.

Not cheap but an interesting take on the classic. The electric start might be over complicating things but I’d still like to see one of these go round the world. Or have a go myself.

A mild paranoia can keep you safe. Personally I feel that if you have decent PPE you should be allowed to go where you want.

As much as I think we should be left to use our common sense it’s becoming more evident there are quite a few folk lacking in any common sense at all.

Perhaps in the future our driving licence can have an extra section stating that you’ve received training and are able to move around assisting friends and family during a pandemic.

If you are thinking about grabbing a few radios for communication, fun or an end-of-the-world scenario, this elevation map will help you find out how far you might be able to talk.

The PMR446 frequencies (Free to use without a licence) work really well line of sight with some epic distance possible with a simple £10-£20 handheld radio. This is the one that I use most of the time.

As a licensed radio operator I have to mention that some of the radios available will have more power than technically allowed on the free PMR frequencies.

This Easy Record Maker looks like fun.

No idea what the quality will be like but it’s already on sale in Japan. Not expensive but I guess they will make their money on the blank records that you then cut.

I’ll have this in Linux please.


I made this spot to thank paying subscribers. Those wonderful folk that drop the $5/month to get all the content I share into this feed. When all my other work has dried up I feel lucky to have this trickle of income.

So, many thanks to Richard Jones, @AmandaFClark and Neil Dixon. I can’t thank you enough.

Should you want to support the Documentally dispatch, receive all future content and get access to the archive please subscribe here.

[I understand that times are hard for some at the moment. If you’d like to read the archive but can’t stretch to subscribing, ping me an email and I’ll sub you a free month to catch up.]


  • The escalation in surveillance of the individual in regards to Coronavirus is making many rights-loving individuals understandably uncomfortable. (Why we need restrictions on coronavirus surveillance.) But solutions for unrolling infection chains have been around for a while. (Like ‘Virus Radar’ for example.) All we need to do is implement them with care and consideration for the individual. Unfortunately ‘Virus Radar’ is dependent on universally recognised test kits being available. The UK is still not doing enough.

  • I overheard someone on PMR channels talk about Nightingale sensors and how they were surprised they’ve been made ready so fast. No idea who these people were but they sounded medically trained. A quick google turned up this. But there are lots of conspiracies also. If I continue to pick up random snippets of info over the air I will share them in the member dispatches.

  • Have you added yourself to the Documentally community map?

  • After getting their knuckles wrapped for being evil, modified their app to not leave a suspicious server on your computer. Their past behaviour is enough for me to not want to use any of their products and if you are still running the old version of the app you may want to follow these instructions.

  • SS7 may be a weakness for users, but it’s a feature for the thousands of orgs that exploit it.

  • Stop trying to be productive.

  • Incidentally now is the time to get a HAM licence. It’s never been easier.


Thanks for reading. This format feels harder now i’m not working on my usual workshops and training. So things are about to change. Members may get more email and audio of varying length at random times. Everyone else might only see something monthly. Either way I hope to make it fun, informative and strictly for the curious.

No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.” ~ Robert Frost

Listen with curiosity,

See you out there.


Self Oscillating [204]

Greetings from the shed...

How can I not talk about it? It’s everywhere. On the news, in the local shop, on their crappy newspaper covers, even on the CB radio.

I wanted to call this email ‘Isolated Cells’ but I used that title for [Issue186] back in November 2019. With all the talk of bug-out-bags and bunkers you may think I have some kind of inside knowledge. I wish I did.

I doubt there is a corner of the internet free from virus chatter.

So apologies if this looks like the pandemic special but it kind of is. Although there is other stuff.

Try to be positive. If you’re glued to the news that’s not going to help. Let me curate some of it so you can use the bulk of your time growing veg and digging that bunker.


This was to be a busy week of training. Like busses, work had been sporadic but this week saw a convoy of appointments that would see me through a couple of months.

But everything was suddenly cancelled. So nothing. Or at least nothing physical.

Thanks to The Point in Eastleigh there was some work. I managed to stream in and deliver a workshop to staff who were taking all the correct precautions.

We discussed some of the different ways they could remain a functioning node in the network of artists, actors and dancers they connect with. Lots of fun and frolics fleshing out multimedia content creation options.

School collection and drop off has featured heavily this week. I’d walk into the school yard with the kids and attempt to keep at least two meters from others. Impossible when crossing a playground.

Kids zig zag at speed. Arms outstretched, the chased and the chasers. All playing ‘Tag’ No one wanting to be ‘It’. A simple game, perhaps now a dangerous sport. Odds are, in a school of hundreds someone really is ‘it’.

Interestingly the safe zone or ‘Base’ is called ‘Homie’ round here. No idea why.

This may have been the last day of primary school for my lad. There was no ceremony. Just a slow, contemplative walk back out the gates.

And that’s it now. The kids are home with us ‘for the foreseeable future’. Some say this is the new norm till September.

Six months outside of the institution. Imagine that.

This may well be the first generation to develop a true sense of identity. A generation that questions authority, thinks for themselves and is equipped to build and repair their own confidence.

That’s if we don’t get cabin fever and kill each other. I’m formulating a plan which starts with some lists. Here’s one.

Things to do, memories to make:

Read together / Play board games / Build a radio /Sew / Italian lessons / Build a tree house / Paper aeroplane races / Watch School of Rock / Lino print / Dance to the radio / Play hangman / Do Yoga / Play marbles / Build an obstacle course / Code a game / Camp in the garden / Write a story / Start a fire with a fire bow / Play bingo / Hide and seek / Identify all the plants in the garden / Doodle / Fire a catapult / Sketch self portraits / Go metal detecting / Bake bread / Build a fort / Have a puppet show / Lego / Build a den in the woods / Make a time capsule / Whittle wood / Picnic in the garden / Play drums round a fire.

This list is a work in progress so please add to it in the comments section.


If the doesn’t stop you popping to the pub nothing will…


The newsletter penned by David Charles is a wonderful release from isolation. Check it out.

If you have the time. And I’m sure you do. Check out these 4000+ words on the Black Death. The mortality rate is mind boggling.


For centuries, kulning has been used by Swedish herdswomen to bring home the cows.

This is what it sounds like.

And this is how to do it.

Changing your mental state can improve your immune system. More sage, timely advice from All Hale Kale.

Heavyweight is one of those podcasts that keeps flooring me. This episode ‘The Marshes’ covers a lot of ground that I fine emotionally triggering. Listen though to how when some key moments were missed in audio, the narration and thread pull it all together. Fantastic audio storytelling.

The sound of quantum computing. (Wear headphones)

Being glued to the news is never really good for you. But neither is being ill or misinformed.. Sharing misleading news is more dangerous than not sharing at all. I’ve been going to the Coronavirus Newscast for my updates. They do good work.


Winesolation is going well.

I can whole heartedly recommend all these liquid postcards. What better way to travel the world.

Here are some tips for cooking in quarantine.

Why oh why?


Think about stocking up on stuff that lasts. Not panic buying things you think you need. But stocking up on things that will keep you healthy over a two or three month period.

If you need some suggestions then @Joshr shared this handy list.

He also shared this Coronavirus Tech Handbook for those like me having to remote work.

Speaking of remote work… Although I can’t visit you in the flesh to deliver a workshop, I can inform, educate and entertain via video chat if you like.

Hire me! Or perhaps subscribe to these emails.

That also makes me very happy.

You may remember me selling my MixPre-6 (audio) and I have since got my hands on the Zoom F6 (Dispatch 203). With the money from the recorder and selling a couple of old lenses I picked this up. The Yaesu FT-991 HF/VHF/UHF All Mode Transceiver.

Here is a video of an excited man talking through a few of the features.

It does more than I will ever need and I really have no clue how to use anything other than the basics. Tomorrow I hope to put up a HF antenna and put it to the test.

Finally a cure for my Star Wars Commander addiction.

Although mild as far as addictions go, I did find myself opening the app every day. That will be hard in a few weeks when they pull the plug on the game.

Keepon died.

But was resurrected.


I made this spot to thank paying subscribers. Those folk that drop the $5/month to get all the content I share into this feed.

There have been no new members since the last free issue so if you would like access to the archives and the podcast feed, as well as get a shout out to over 1500 people who are as interested and curious as you, then now is your chance.

Come on, hit the button. It’s cheaper than 16 paracetomol.



Thank you so much for subscribing!

If you're enjoying these regular emails I’d appreciate you forwarding it to someone you think may also enjoy them.

I’m occasionally on Twitter as @Documentally and replying to this email will also reach me.

This is not the time to think about all the regular things you can no longer do.

This is the time to consider all the new and different things that we can do.

Death to old routines… Long live creativity!

The human spirit lives on creativity and dies in conformity and routine.” 
~ Vilayat Inayat Khan

Hang in there.

See you out there.


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