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.

Friday 28 January 2011

oxford times interview, our book reviews online, oxford writer

One or two new pieces have been published about Invisible and StreetBooks over the last fortnight.

Yesterday, the interview I did with Gill Oliver of the Oxford Times came out (http://bit.ly/eSC4ZP) and earlier in the week an interesting review of Invisible appeared on the Our Book Reviews Online website (http://bit.ly/dKrXkc). The piece was entitled Dark Romance, which I liked.

There were also three articles in the January issue of the Oxford Writer (newsletter of Writers in Oxford: http://www.writersinoxford.org) that mentioned Invisible and StreetBooks.

The first, in the Book News and Reviews section, drew attention to the 'beautiful cover' (above), which was designed by my friend Andrew Chapman (also a member of WiO). The piece concluded: 'A story of love, the forging and loosening of relationships and a strong sense of place pervade Invisible and its inner nature has been beautifully caught in Andrew's cover.'

The other two articles--a report on my talk to WiO, Bespoke Publishing, the Way Forward?, and the front page story, Making Our Own Luck--were linked.

In the former, Dennis Hamley wrote:

'Frank looked back eight years, when he was planning his second novel Invisible, and an encounter with an established novelist who told him, "You are a writer. Publishers are publishers."

'Frank strongly disagreed, realising that he wanted to be a writer-publisher, and started the long process of setting up his own small press. So began a long apprenticeship in learning new technology, through visits to the London Book Fair, The Bookseller and papers on the Web...

'Retrenchment by the big publishers has long passed a reasonable level and the number of new ways to find publication, helped by the new technology, has burgeoned.'

As a novelist and a tutor of creative writing I am fascinated by the opportunities that new technologies, such as e-books and print on demand, offer writers.

The lead article in the Oxford Writer drew on my talk and those by other members, including Andrew Chapman and Mary Cavanagh, to start a debate among the membership on the possibility of collective publishing--for both new work and back-list titles.

This debate is timely and one that I shall watch with great interest.

Tuesday 18 January 2011


Bright and beautiful day. Colder too, although it's now hard to remember what it was like when it snowed before Christmas.

As a reminder, here's the dog.

Wednesday 12 January 2011

first day of spring

First day of spring might be a bit of an exaggeration but last Sunday was the first time I'd felt that spring was in the air since the new year began with the Winter Solstice. (No, I'm not a Pagan but taking the solstice as the end of the old year and beginning of the new does seem good sense. Perhaps I am a Pagan.)

The sunlight on Sunday was just that bit richer than it has been and when you were out of the wind there was real warmth in the sun. Even when you were in the wind there was something not so defeating about the cold.

I went for a long cycle ride down towards the Thames, along the Great Brook (into which all the streams in the valley flow before it reaches the Thames at Shifford Lock) and round to Mount Owen (road, telegraph poles and valley, above).

The photo of the trees and water shows an unusual feature that always looks as if it's the remains of an old moat, although there is nothing to suggest it is on the OS map. I did read, though, in the Victoria County History that the Romans settled close to the Thames and not where the present village stands. Somehow moat and Roman settlements got all mixed together in my imagination and were then stirred into the little story about the Leper's Tower towards the end of Invisible. (The leper bit, incidentally came from a tale about Roche Rock in Cornwall, told to me by a family friend when I was a boy.)

The other photo shows a reed bed that the local thatcher grows. Nowadays relatively few houses in Bampton are thatched but many more used to be in previous centuries. Our little terrace replaced a row of thatched tenements, with earth floors and deep roofs that came down to a low stone wall. The rebuilding took place in the 1880s--late compared to many parts of the country. But then Bampton time does seem different to time in the rest of the world.

Friday 7 January 2011

espresso, rain, end of first week

Nearly the end of the first week back at work. Great to see everybody and talk about the holidays.

But what a morning! The heaviest rain I've seen for ages with these huge puddles along the kerbs, which buses and drivers just thump through. When I walked along St Giles' just now this black Golf screamed down the side lane and soaked three people. Don't get me started.

Meanwhile, in Greens now, sipping a single espresso (the doubles start when the year gets really hectic--next week probably). Jazz-funk in the background, warm atmosphere...

Yeah, this week's been OK.