Sunday, 15 July 2018

harvests, high water, spider's web, tim pears' the wanderers, charlotte brontë's jane eyre, downton abbey the movie























Harvested blackcurrants on the allotment earlier. Also French and runner beans and several different kinds of Italian courgette. Lots of watering having to be done too. The plot is amazingly parched. Although the rivers and streams of west Oxfordshire are remarkably full of water, given the last time it rained was ages ago. Perhaps all that snow during the winter stocked up the aquifers.

Yesterday, when arriving at the allotment early, I saw this spider's web on the gate, drenched in dew.

Finished reading Tim Pears' The Wanderers this week. What a wonderful book! Gentle and relatively slow of pace but totally involving. Such vivid evocations of rural life and a remote country estate just before the outbreak of the First World War. Can't wait for the third part of the trilogy to be published.

Have now started re-reading Jane Eyre. What a writer, Charlotte Brontë is!

Meantime, Downton Abbey the movie has been given the go ahead - wonder if they will be filming it in Bampton. Hope so.

Saturday, 7 July 2018

common?, hh, ci, ba, strolling through the showers, harvests























Saw this 'Common' Brimstone butterfly in the garden of Howard's House hotel.

Excellent stay in Wiltshire at the Compasses Inn, Lower Chicksgrove, with excursions to HH and the Beckford Arms.

Somewhat stunned by the hot weather, although there was welcome rain on our Wednesday walk. We took an umbrella but in the event just enjoyed strolling through the light showers.

No rain at home. Lots of garden and allotment watering. But first French beans and Italian courgettes have been picked.

Friday, 29 June 2018

potato dibber catch-up, maris peer, bike in the mud, the sentence by stephanie scott, mary anne sate, imbecile by alice jolly


























I realised that I never posted pictures of the potato dibber this year. Well here it is - and here are the Maris Peer spuds I planted, almost ready to be lifted.

And on a mud and bike theme, here is a bike in the mud on the bank of one of the streams near Osney that flows into the Thames. Photographed on my walk to work earlier in the week.

This weekend, it's the MSt in Creative Writing Guided Retreat - the last time the tutors meet their students before finals. On Monday there will be the annual end-of-course student readings at Kellogg College, which I'm really looking forward to.

Talking of the MSt, a student I supervised several years ago got in touch to say she had sold her first novel, The Sentence. That neutral-sounding 'sold' doesn't say the half of it - see the MSt blog! So  pleased for you, Steph!

And again, talking of the MSt, I was thrilled to receive my copy of my fellow tutor Alice Jolly's brand new novel, Mary Anne Sate, Imbecile. A summer reading treat!

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

in flower, heady scents, end of the academic year, education continuing, vibrant expectation






So much is in flower in J's garden now, as we approach the longest day.

Heady scents too.

Can't quite believe that Oxford has reached the end of the academic year. University spaces are suddenly significantly quieter.

Though many courses - particularly Department for Continuing Education ones, which include Creative Writing at masters and undergraduate levels - never stop. Some even only begin to pick up outside full term.

A time of mild exhaustion and vibrant expectation.

Friday, 8 June 2018

angelica, digital editions, guide to northern archæology, great-great-great granddad, invisible









Alternating between walks across the shoulder of Cumnor Hill and along the Oxford canal.

This photo of a stem of grass and a wild angelica plant was taken beside the canal just below Wolvercote.

A highlight of the past two terms has been the Taylor Digital Editions course, which I did in Hilary before presenting two of the sessions in Trinity.

The course has been written by my colleague Emma and is tremendously rewarding and hugely enjoyable. It introduces both students and librarians to techniques used in the creation of digital editions. Course participants choose interesting texts from the Taylor collections and week by week learn skills including creating digital images of selected pages, encoding text according to Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) principles and depositing their digital edition in the University's data archive.

From the librarian's point of view, the course gives valuable insights into the world of our Digital Humanities researchers.

The book that I chose was one that my great-great-great grandfather edited, entitled Guide to Northern Archæology, which includes a translation of an academic paper written by the Danish antiquarian Christian Jürgensen Thomsen (1788-1865), which sets out his system of dating archaeological artifacts by reference to co-occurrence and archaeological context, including ancient literature. The inscription on the Taylor copy says it was presented by my ancestor on the 19th February 1852. Little did he know that one of his descendants would be working there many years later!

It was great fun to work on a few pages of a book that my ancestor had edited and presented to the library.

The images of the pages were uploaded to the Bodleian Special Collections Flickr group and the edition itself appears on the course webpage. The image and xml files were deposited in ORA-Data.

The last of these tasks means that the record for my ancestor's book sits alongside the uncut, unedited version of my second novel Invisible, which was uploaded into the research archive not long after it was published. Because it was written when I was teaching creative writing at Oxford, the work represented a research output. The version is a curiosity - there were reasons that some 10,000 words were cut!

Saturday, 2 June 2018

water lilies, bees, rewriting and editing trust: a family story, consultation, hard to do























The water lilies in our pond are flowering. The peonies are about to. There are many more bees. Things are looking up! Only a sole honey bee, though.

Have started at long last to rewrite and edit Trust: A family story. Am learning a lot about the text as I do so. Have achieved quite a lot in a relatively short space of time. Am loving the activity of rewriting and editing, if not some of the memories stirred.

Contributed to the Domestic Abuse Bill consultation in respect of coercive and controlling behaviour and economic abuse. Very hard to do. Stirred a lot of memories.

Saturday, 19 May 2018

oxford canal mural project, sunny days-chilly evenings, where are the bees?























One of the highlights of my Oxford canal walk is the Oxford Canal Mural Project. Perhaps the most striking work is Richard Wilson's kingfisher under the bridge near the Trap Grounds. Though all the murals are a joy to see.

Loving the sunny weather. Great to sit at the top of the garden at sunset - despite the chilly evenings.

What isn't so great is the almost total absence of bees this summer. With shrubs like the weigela in bloom and aquilegia flowering, I would have expected the garden to be buzzing but there's hardly anything.

As the Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust says, 'Heavy use of toxic sprays on flowers, intensive agriculture and a reduction in the number of insect pollinated crops has brought about a huge drop in bee populations. Urbanisation and loss of habitat have hit bees hard. Indeed some wild bee species are close to extinction. Never more so than now, bees need your support.' But, can this sudden absence be explained by sprays or was the hard winter to blame? Will numbers increase? If so when? The garden soundscape without bees is so unnerving.