Welcome to justthoughtsnstuff

Welcome to jtns, which I've been writing since 2010. Most of its 600 plus posts are about day to day things - highlights from the previous week, books read, places visited - together with photos of what I've seen. There are some posts, though, that deal with a difficult subject - obsessional emotional and economic abuse that went on for several decades and that came to a head in autumn 2010. Writing jtns became in part a way of coping with the consequences of what happened and exploring them openly. This aspect of the blog is discussed in JTNS, An Introduction and Life-Writing Talk, with Reference to Trust: A family story. Now that the pain of the past years is easing (after many false dawns, when I thought it had finally passed), the frequency of the posts is lessening and in 2020, when jtns will be ten years old, they will stop. I hope that you enjoy the photos and reading the happier posts (the majority) and take a little from them. Frank, October 2018

Saturday, 18 May 2019

colin grant, kellogg, great brook lane, bart van es

Really enjoyed Colin Grant's talk at the Kellogg College Creative Writing Seminar on Wednesday. A convivial - and delicious -guest night dinner afterwards.

Have been cycling along the Great Brook lane quite a bit recently after an extended period of doing different routes. The lane is long, straight and relatively even, with meadows either side at the western end (the one that floods) and arable fields towards Chimney, the ground having risen a foot or so by then.

The meadows are bright green and the verges are already abundant tangles of leaf and flower.

Looking forward to a joint Writers in Oxford and Kellogg College event on Monday - Bart van Es will be talking about his Cota-winning book, The Cut Out Girl.

Saturday, 4 May 2019

abraham-isaac-jacob, trust: a family story, rewriting and editing completed, library, book launch

Came across this striking plant south of Wolvercote beside the Oxford canal yesterday. I can't remember seeing it before and identification took a while. At first I thought it might be Russian Comfrey but a different book led me to the glorious name Abraham-Isaac-Jacob, a member of the Borage family. But why that name, though? It appears to have been given to a number of plants over the years, including Pulmonaria or Lungwort (also known as Wounded Soldiers).

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Have now finished the Trust: A family story rewrites and edits. Working steadily in the early mornings, the evenings and at weekends, the pace of the process increased.

When I first returned to the text two months ago, I'd expected I would simply read through last autumn's version and sign it off. I was downcast when I realised that there was still work to do. For a day or so I wondered if I would ever finish.

Having re-read the first section of the book over the past couple of days, I feel confident that there will be few further changes - initiated by me, at least.

What remains is going through the annotated Word document and confirming the edits - all marked in red (green, second pass) as additions or crossings out. I considered tracked changes but decided against them because I want to keep very close to the work and the text as I proceed.

There will be a final read through - which is bound to turn up minor corrections - but the work that is left won't take long.

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At the library in Oxford today - to be preceded by a walk along the canal (past Abraham-Isaac-Jacob). Also looking forward to a friend's book launch in the village.

Saturday, 27 April 2019

old walk, abandoned corral, arson attack, digital humanities day

I've enjoyed walking my old route to work across Wolvercote Green and along the Oxford canal to Jericho.

When we lost our direct bus, I started doing the walk over the shoulder of Cumnor Hill but recently - when recovering from a broken toe - I discovered I can get a slightly later connecting bus and reach the Woodstock Road roundabout in time to do the canal one. I doubt this will always be the case because the post-Easter lull in traffic on the A40 will end but it's lovely to rediscover it.

The abandoned corral at Wolvercote is a beautiful piece if work (above). It was built by a man who was doing a sustainability project that involved rearing two beef cattle on the green and the little paddocks in between railway line and canal, using traditional methods, including scything the grass and drying it in loose stacks to make hay.

It was a gorgeous project to catch glimpses of.

Then in autumn 2014 it ended with an arson attack on the barn in which the hay was stored. Sickening. I wrote about this in a post four years ago.

Cycled this morning in high winds. Hard going on the way out but a breeze coming back. Amazing how still it is when the wind is directly behind you. Not a whisper.

Looking forward to the Gale Digital Humanities Day at the British Library next week.

Saturday, 20 April 2019

dandelions, cycle ride

They may be the scourge of lawnkeepers - and allotmenteers, it has to be said - but along the verges dandelions are gorgeous at this time of year!

Hugely enjoyable cycle ride towards the Thames and beside the Great Brook. The air cooled by the north-easterly breeze and the sunlight bright and life-full.

Monday, 15 April 2019

jane eyre, lexicon of terror, 1950s films, trust: a family story, joint committee

Finished Jane Eyre the other day. Hard to read the novel in the way I once did in the light of Wide Sargasso Sea but for all its anachronistic faults (which are uncomfortable to read) - not to mention its narrator's occasional smugness - it is a magnificent story. And Jane is a complex, comprehensively written character - her humanity exists in her flaws as much as her strengths.

Its narrative texture is rich and varied. The scenes that evoke the British countryside are vibrant and beautifully written. As, now, a professional creative writer, I was particularly fascinated by the St John Rivers sections. I'd not been able to articulate the observations years ago that I might make today, though the chapters did seem distinct. There is one scene especially - at Jane's cottage beside the school, when St John calls on her and the characters speak without inhibition (and speech tags). Just back and forth. Just people chatting - in styles so different to the more formal language at Thornfield. The setting done with perfect simplicity and economy. So modern. So kitchen sink, in a way. (A stone sink, of course.)

Now I have moved on to the utterly compelling - and shocking - A Lexicon of Terror by Marguerite Feitlowitz, which examines the Dirty War in Argentina in the mid seventies and early eighties.

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Without a DVD to watch a month or so ago, we came across this site - The 100 Best Movies of the 1950s - and have been immersed in 1950s films ever since: The Barefoot Contessa, Sabrina, Journey to Italy and Born Yesterday thus far. A supposedly lost, grey decade comes to life. Bogart philosophical, wise and compassionate in ways not previously suspected. George Sanders, the awkward, cold British male, who seems as uncomfortably apposite now as in the 'post war' era.

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Had some time to work on Trust: A family story during the past fortnight. The process of rewriting and editing this work must seem so drawn out to the onlooker - which indeed it is. I have so little spare writing time in between library work and teaching. But I have made time this year - and will make more over the coming months. I am pleased with the major structural changes and rewriting I did last year. While there is further strengthening to be done, this is proving quite straightforward to do and - hey - the end really is in sight.

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Very pleased that the Joint Committee on the Draft Domestic Abuse Bill is meeting and taking the bill forward, despite the all consuming demands of Brexit.

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Meantime, some exotic tulips have popped up in the garden.

Saturday, 23 March 2019

stroll, amble, spring, retreat

























A stroll to the Bell at Langford along Calcroft Lane (aka the gated road) early in the week. Well, not quite - bus to Clanfield then the walk. Then a longer walk back - even longer than planned, what with the wrong turn (farmer kind to set us on the right path, despite us disturbing breeding snipe - I didn't know they did breed round here, just overwintered).

An amble round the Barrington Estate the next day.

Spring is definitely springing.

MSt in Creative Writing guided retreat this weekend.

Monday, 18 March 2019

violets, my oxford: a memoir by catherine haines























Saw this gorgeous bank of violets on the outskirts of the village the other weekend, as we came back from a Sunday walk.

Really thrilled that a life-writing work by a former student has just been published. My Oxford: A memoir by Catherine Haines was the winner the the New Welsh Writing Awards (Aberystwyth University Prize for a Memoir) in 2017 and is now out in paperback and Kindle, under the New Welsh Review's Rarebytes imprint.