Welcome to justthoughtsnstuff

I started posting to jtns on 20 February 2010 with just one word, 'Mosaic'. This seemed an appropriate introduction to a blog that would juxtapose fragments of memoir and life-writing. Since 1996, I'd been coming to terms with the consequences of emotional and economic abuse that had begun in childhood, and which, amongst other things, had sought to stifle self-expression. While I'd explored some aspects of my life through fiction and, to a lesser extent, journalism, it was only in 2010 that I felt confident enough to write openly about myself. I believed this was an important part of the healing process. Yet within weeks, the final scenes of my family's fifty-year nightmare started to play themselves out and the purpose of the blog became one of survival through writing. Although some posts are about my family's suffering - most explicitly, Life-Writing Talk, with Reference to Trust: A family story - the majority are about happier subjects (including, Bampton in rural west Oxfordshire, where I live, Oxford, where I work, the seasons and the countryside, walking and cycling) and I hope that these, together with their accompanying photos, are enjoyable and positive. Note: In February 2020, on jtns' tenth birthday, I stopped posting to this blog. It is now a contained work of life-writing about ten years of my life. Frank, 21 February 2020.

New blog: morethoughtsnstuff.com.

Saturday 26 June 2010


On allotment early this morning, cleaning ground for courgettes and late sowings of carrots, turnips and swede. THE best time to be out and about today. A cool breeze to begin with that had dropped by 8 am when I headed back.

Worked this morning and early afternoon before driving to Plough at Kelmscott. Love that pub and village--an exquisite middle-of-nowhere Thames valley place (with Wm Morris, Burden, Rossetti associations--wild).

Then home for late lunch in garden. (Pics above may not have displayed in order--the perils of posting from phone.)

Coolest place here is the shed. Amongst other things, the potato store. This year we've had home-grown spuds for 365 days. I collected the last of the 2009 harvest this morning from their hessian sack and tomorrow we'll lift the first of the 2010.

Steak supper later. Will maybe listen to Florence + the Machine after. Facebook friend posted about seeing F + t M and Stranglers at Glastonbury today. Envy!

Saturday 19 June 2010

syd, flag n things

18th June

Every so often--once a year, say--I have this urge to listen to Pink Floyd's Piper at the Gates of Dawn. This morning was one of those times.

Outside the bus windows the morning was bright enough to make you feel light and the west Oxfordshire countryside was on the cusp of wild beauty and rampant out of control wilderness.

The HTC was set to shuffle and I hit Astronomy, which was fine--good guitar vibes--as was the next. But then Syd Barrett's Matilda Mother kicked off and, yikes, the weirdness started.

There's a moment in Invisible when Sarah says something like she feels that someone's scratching their fingernails across her mind. Well, Syd's lyrics and the throbbing headache music felt like that.

I remember seeing a photo of Syd taken just before he died. A mild-looking late middle-aged man on a bicycle. The bike had a wicker basket, if memory serves. He had a woolly scarf and gloves. Long gone were the brainstorms and acid-induced ideas. But their legacy sure lives on.

Why do I return to those tracks? Well, sometimes--every three years, perhaps--you can find yourself in a relaxed-enough oh-that's-just-Syd-being-Syd mood to really enjoy a run of them. That's the craic. That's the high the mind craves (Steady!). As screwed a yearning as Syd's for the stuff that blighted his life. But safer, thankfully.

Continued, 19th June

Phew! Oxford term's almost over and it's left me drained but reasonably content. The reasonably refers to my self-doubts and wish that I could've done better. The students I've worked with have been great, putting in admirable amounts of effort.

Not that summer is going to be a breeze but I'm hoping to have a bit more time to tackle the weeds on the allotment, plant some cucumber seedlings and so on. If I can remember where the allotment is.

I've also got to do some more work on the StreetBooks edition of Invisible, which is due out on Thursday 2nd September. Btw the Anchor Book Club discussion of Invisible has been rearranged, by mutual consent, for Monday 13th September.

Meanwhile, on a Latin American theme, I was really pleased that the editor of Outline, the Bodleian newsletter, decided to publish both my pieces--one on the visit to the Bod of Marcelo Ebrard, Mayor of Mexico City (front page), the other about the donation of 19th century Colombian newspapers to the Bodleian by Dr Alvaro Holguin, grandson of President Carlos Holguin (the papers formed part of his private collection).

Btw went to the Latin American Centre summer party last night. Fantastic live music from the students! Thanks to Elvira and David for organising the evening!

Which is about it for the mo. Apart from saying that I took the pic of the yellow flag yesterday opposite where Lucy's iron foundry used to be in Jericho.

Sunday 6 June 2010

end of weekend

Well, I saw the steam engines going to wherever and I saw them head home.

It's been a long working weekend and next week's going to be as busy as this one. No respite until Oxford's Trinity term ends in a fortnight's time. Having said that, the Oxford term is always an exhilarating collective endeavour, which I wouldn't have any other way.

And it wasn't all work. Managed a trip to Shilton for a pint at the estimable Rose and Crown.

Btw duck family had grown even more last Friday.

Saturday 5 June 2010

steamier still

Got a bit of a rally going on here.

Room filled with smell of engine's coal. Different from house coal--quite dry and nutty.


I was at my desk, where I'll be spending most of this weekend, when there was a toot-toot from the road.

I just managed to switch on the camera and catch this magnificent contraption as it trundled past.

Wednesday 2 June 2010

whitsun weekend bampton

Had a great time at the Whitsun celebrations in Bampton. True, there was some travelling to be done, family to see--which turned out to be an enriching and poignant experience--but there was still plenty of time left over to enjoy the festivities.

Loved best of all going to the Morris Clown late on Sunday night and watching the musicians and singers. As usual the way it all worked was someone would play a note then talk the others through the tune (often a nod and a word was enough) before a few of got going on it. It might be just a couple of people who decided to play or nearly the whole group, at others it was just someone singing unaccompanied.

What I found amazing, though, was how the drinkers kept drinking and chatting, as if the music were in the background. Well, it was but it was so much more than that. Here was this extraordinary event taking place in a pub on a Whit Sunday, with talented singers playing fascinating instruments or singing narrative songs with their beautiful voices. This was unaccountably special.

Thanks to Jamie Long (http://www.myspace.com/jamielongmusic) and the others for a brilliant evening.

Thanks too to the Morris men and to friends C and S and E and A for the barbies.