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.

Saturday, 12 May 2018

amazing bank holiday weekend, late lunches, rediscovering oxford canal walk, library tour























What an amazing bank holiday weekend! So hot and sunny!

Wasn't able to get to the allotment till Monday afternoon because I had office work to do but we had some lovely late lunches at the top of the garden by the frog pond.

Went to the allotment today to catch up. No sign of the spuds yet, although the shallots and onions are doing well. Last year's chard has come back. Should be picking some tomorrow.

Have been rediscovering the old Wolvercote Green-Oxford Canal-Jericho walk I used to do before the 18 bus route was axed. Having enough time to do this walk before work is dependent on traffic on the A40, which is why I've not done it for ages. There used to be long queues but I'd heard rumours that things were better, so, knowing that the mud on the towpath would have dried out by now, I decided to catch the S2 from Witney rather than the S1 and see what happened, Wednesday and Friday. Plenty of time! (I think also that in part I may have avoided doing the walk because it seemed so sad that the 18 had been cut...) The photo shows graffiti and lichen on a wall beside the Oxford canal near Jericho.

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Very much enjoyed showing Dilma Rousseff, president of Brazil, 2011-2016, round the Bodleian Library prior to her lecture at St Antony's on Monday.

Friday, 4 May 2018

let's hear it for the nettles!, mark cocker's our place, busy start, planting























When walking through the churchyard of St Thomas the Martyr in west Oxford last Saturday - I was on way to work (one of my library Saturdays) - I saw bluebells growing amongst nettles.

I was reminded of a sobering Sunday Times book review by Christopher Hart of a few weeks ago. The book was Our Place: Can We Save Britain’s Wildlife Before It Is Too Late? by Mark Cocker (Cape, £18.99, pp.349). A self-evidently hard-hitting work that, amongst other things, challenges the British love of nature. Here's a quote:

'Cocker makes no apologies for the bleakness of his book. Truth matters. He also queries the sacred idea that the British "love the countryside". Do we mean, we love driving through it? Visiting pretty villages and nice pubs for lunch? He suggests that we are really a nation of gardeners: fatally tidy-minded, the wild joy of nature's riotous abundance lost to us, instead spraying weed killer on stinging nettles even though it's the weed killer that’s carcinogenic, not the nettles - which are crucial larval plants for peacock, red admiral, painted lady, comma and small tortoiseshell butterflies.'

Enough to make one unplug the strimmer's battery charger for good? Possibly.

Certainly a case of, Let's hear it for the nettles!

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A busy start to the term. Without good spring weather to keep up energy levels. Still, the forecast is promising for the bank holiday weekend and I should be getting more spuds planted. The Maris Peer rows went in last weekend and onions and shallots the week before.

Saturday, 21 April 2018

spring flower walk, fritillaries, cowslips and a snail on a thorn, pippa's song by robert browning, sackler sundays

























Too wet to garden last weekend, so starting on the allotment was delayed yet more.

Went on a spring flower walk beside the Thames instead. Wonderful!

Love snake's head fritillaries!

Was intrigued by the snail on the blackthorn, though - and there were many more of them.

Brought to mind Robert Browning's poem, Pippa's Song:

The year's at the spring,
And day's at the morn;
Morning's at seven;
The hill-side's dew-pearl'd;
The lark's on the wing;
The snail's on the thorn;
God's in His heaven—
All's right with the world!

Why do snails like to climb thorns!

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At the Sackler Library, we recently introduced Sunday opening - all the year round. This has been an exciting development - one which has been really popular with readers. I wrote a piece about it for the library blog before Easter. While it has my byline, however, this was very much a collaborative post involving a number of colleagues, who added design and editorial content. Then there's the Sunday team, who make everything work!