Saturday, 19 August 2017

dog rose, the lock, liber dh wg, writers in oxford young oxfordshire writers comp
























The dog rose by the entrance to the Walton Well Road car park was in flower this week.

I remember it from years ago. If you're coming from Port Meadow, you go through the gate and there it is. It used to be intertwined with stems of Duke of Argyll's Teaplant but that seems to have gone now.

I'm surprised that the dog rose is still alive. There have been many changes to the car park over the last twenty-five to thirty years.

The dog rose featured in my first novel, The Lock (Smaller Sky, 2003) - see extract below. In Chapter 6, Elizabeth is walking towards Port Meadow to visit her daughter who is living with her boyfriend in a truck on the far side of the car park - the novel is set in the early 1990s during the Grunge and Travelling years.

Meantime, I recently joined a new Digital Humanities working group, which has been set up by LIBER (Ligue des Bibliothèques Européennes de Recherche - Association of European Research Libraries). If you're interested in DH you can find out more by visiting the group's page and the LIBER blog post about the launch workshop (which sadly I wasn't able to attend).

A reminder that the Writers in Oxford 25th Anniversary Young Oxfordshire Writers Competition closes very soon - entries must be sent before 1st September.

Two other writing competitions to consider are The Galley Beggar Press Short Story Prize 2017/18 and the Sixth Annual Mogford Food and Drink Short Story Prize (opens 26 October).

--

Extract from The Lock by Frank Egerton (Smaller Sky, 2003), Chapter 6, pp. 80-81 (now available as a Kindle ebook from StreetBooks)


Even near the bottom of the hill, the cover from the, in spring, scraggy-seeming ash trees, and the new growth of rosebay willowherb and dog rose bushes was impenetrable.  In amongst the last of these, Elizabeth noticed, with some surprise, growing the long, silvery-green tarragon-like branches and delicate star-shaped purple flowers of the Duke of Argyll’s teaplant.  She remembered seeing this before in an area of rough ground by the railway station, which was on the way along a short cut to the Island from the canal which she and Gerald had sometimes used when they were returning on summer nights from having a drink in Jericho after he had collected her from the University Press, where she then worked, shortly before they were married.  Since then, and though she had walked this way often over the years, she had not seen the shrub anywhere else.

Elizabeth also remembered how she and Gerald had spent time observing the structure of the teaplant when they first noticed it, and had then gone to his house and sat side by side on the green velvet sofa’s somewhat drab predecessor in the sitting-room, Gerald leafing through the pages of the Oxford Flower Book for the Pocket, both he and Elizabeth staring intently as if in competition with each other, until, with the alacrity of snap players, they cried simultaneously ‘There!’ and identified it.
She stopped walking for a moment and then approached the dense seethe of dog rose and teaplant, which were also, she now saw, bound up with a plethora of the flimsy but inexorable, twining stems of convolvulus, coming into leaf, but not yet in flower.  The dog rose flowers themselves were unusually large and big-petalled.  They were mostly pinky purple with thickly-stamened yellow centres, like pincushions, though there were some white ones, which she presumed must be on a separate bush, but it was impossible to tell.  She could have tried to part some of the stems and find out, but, quite apart from their large thorns, they were guarded by nettles.

Were, she wondered, lost for a moment in reverie, these bushes, with their extraordinary flowers, even dog roses?

Sunday, 13 August 2017

morning glory!, osney birthday party, hb allen centre







It's that morning glory time of year. Every one of them different. Each startlingly beautiful.

Worked in Oxford yesterday before going to a birthday party on Osney Island. Loved seeing friends.

On the way to work I took a photo of the old building on the former Acland site that is being incorporated into Keble College's HB Allen Centre. Extraordinary to see it sitting on stilts like this. Keble has put up so many new buildings since I was an undergraduate there in the 1980s.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

surprise!, ganoderma lucidum, frog pond replenished, hopefully brief floods

























Imagine my surprise when I came across this curious bracket fungus while walking from North Hinksey to Osney on my way to work earlier in the week.

Possibly an orange example of Ganoderma Lucidum - Ganoderma being a genus of mushroom found throughout the world, which is used in traditional Asian medicine.

A curiosity certainly - and not necessarily something that new visitors to this blog will want to see...

Sadly, the wonderful summer weather seems to have disappeared, although there have been some rather lovely periods of sunshine and refreshing breezes. The frog pond is fully replenished with water. As I tap away, there is an extraordinarily vicious and drenching hailstorm outside, cars whooshing through the - hopefully brief - floods!

Sunday, 30 July 2017

sunday lunch harvest, keeping in touch, maris peer, tell-tale steam, punting, summer school



A Sunday lunch harvest from the allotment. I couldn't claim to be self-sufficient in a million years but I love keeping in touch with the land through this small square of earth. Digging, cultivating, planting, growing and harvesting. Each year different things do better than others. Not many courgettes this time, although there are plenty of plants. The ruby chard is great in 2017 but hardly came to anything last season. Maris Peer potatoes, by the way.

This morning there was a toot-toot and tell-tale steam in the dip of the road below the allotment field and some minutes later the steam engine trundled by like an earth quake. A magnificent contraption!

A friend visited yesterday for punting, a late morning picnic and lunch. It was a wonderful day.

Very much enjoyed working with the summer school students this week.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

heavy rain, as things should be, early autumn colour, first courgettes, transcendence























Astonishingly heavy rain yesterday evening and today.

One of the heaviest bursts happened just as I was stepping off the bus. Had to place the umbrella so that it protected the photocopies for the summer school rather than me. I got soaked. As it should be, though.

No chance of allotmenting today, so I went on a cycle ride. After the drought, there is a lot of early autumn colour - not least, the leaves of the (stressed) horse chestnuts that line the road between Bampton and Clanfield.

The level in the frog pond has risen considerably. Hooray!

Had our first courgettes mid-week.

Now, a poem. Like others posted on jtns, it's a work in progress and may change.

Transcendence

The bowl turns, transparent:

A room in a simple cottage,
Stout floorboards, wooden furniture...

The bowl turns:

Light streaming through mullions...

The bowl turns, like magic:

Walls fading
Gently
Out and into
A sunny paradise beyond.

--

I step through the rooms:

Across the boards,
Along the chequerboard passage,
Past the bookcase I made
Nearly thirty years ago,
Bespoke, for a flat we rented
(That it fitted here seemed
Meant to be)...

Past our favourite print -
Tall winter trees, branches stretched
Like arms,
Like a cross,
A red horse-drawn cart below
And bowed men
In farmers' coats and tweed caps,
Unloading turnips;
Beyond, the ground falling away
Into our valley,
The sight we first saw,
As we drove to view our cottage;
Of course, not our valley
But one like it;
Our valley, nevertheless...

Out onto the flagstones
That we brought from a garden
In Oxford, in twos and threes,
Grinding the Golf's axle...

Past the bird feeders
And the seeds scattered beneath them
That mice nibble at dawn
And a hedgehog has recently
Started visiting at dusk -
The innocence of watching this strange animal
Together;
The anxiety when walking
Beside the road next morning...

Across the lawn and
Along the serpentine path...

Espallied apple trees,
Laden with fruit,
Arms stretched...

A broad-leaved, spear-shaped
Bush, that is golden,
Summer and winter...

A mock orange,
Whose myriad white flowers
Fill the garden with
Their scent in May...

Over the mound that Billy
Made with earth from the pond,
Then across the stepping stones,
The water's surface nipped
By tadpoles,
The lily pads covering the deep side,
Some arced above others,
Engaged in an imperceptibly
Fierce struggle to reach the light...

Ahead, the table and chairs,
Where we sit in the summer evenings...

We listen to the church bell,
Ringing the hour,
To the surprised cooing of pigeons,
The eek of bats,
The scream of swifts...

Swifts we look out for -
Like sailors seeking landfall -
Who make the summer right when they
Arrive, for reasons I cannot articulate
And whose departure we dread...

Another year passed, maybe...

--

In the museum, the bowl turns, transparent:

Walls fading
Gently -
Out and into,
A sunny paradise beyond?

--

The garden is here;
The garden is now;
The garden is all there is.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

flowering rush - in flower, englishness























Saw these flowering rushes - in flower - on my way to work last week. They are growing in the shallows of the grebe pool on the gently-flowing branch of the Thames that passes between Port Meadow and Fiddler's Island.

A rare sighting, these plants, in flower! I've only ever seen them twice before - one when J and I were walking along the Thames path near Grandpont in about 1988 and once when we were walking the Thames path from Tadpole Bridge to Shifford Lock. They flower and never seem to appear again in the same spot.

We have a flowering rush plant in our pond. It hasn't yet flowered and it's been there for three years. I should show it this photo - Look, this is what you should be doing!

A great review of what sounds like a great book in the Sunday Times today. The book is The Last Wolf: The hidden springs of Englishness by Robert Winder (Little, Brown, 9781408707807). The reviewer, Dominic Sandbrook. I especially liked Winder's definition of Englishness, as summarised by Sandbrook: 'Englishness is an "approach", a "knack" of "negotiating a path between extremes": land and sea, city and countryside, earnest and frivolous, new and old. To be English is to flirt with excess, but always to return to the "sensible middle ground".' (Made by the Rain, review by Dominic Sandbrook, Sunday Times Culture, 16 July 2017.)

Monday, 10 July 2017

compasses inn, moonlight, silent night, punting, upton smokery, barrington park, blackcurrants, garden





Had a wonderful time in Wiltshire at the Compasses Inn, Lower Chicksgrove, with lunchtime expeditions to the Beckford Arms and the timeless Howard's House Hotel. It was hot walking over to them, though!

Back in Oxford, there was punting and lunch at the Cherwell Boathouse.

In Wiltshire, it was lovely to wander along the lane after supper. It was still so light, even at 10 pm, and so silent.

Some delicious lunches in the garden at home too, with ingredients bought from the Upton Smokery (visited en route to walking on the Barrington Park Estate - excellent wild flower banks).




Extremely rested and refreshed now.

The allotment is looking better (despite the scorching drought), after a productive morning up there last week before we went away. Amongst other things, I harvested the blackcurrants. It was fun to have thought through a pruning strategy early in the year and to have seen this bear bigger and more juicy fruits. Some things - runners and courgettes particularly - are slow this year but we have terrific potatoes and spinach. And mangetout peas from the garden.

Loved the readings at the MSt showcase!