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.

Sunday 27 February 2011

early bike ride, bampton church

Went cycling at 6 this morning--needed to be out early because I've lots of work to do today. Up to 4 pm anyway, when I can relax.

Surprisingly sharp air frost, although it thawed quickly and there was no ice on the frog pond. There are several frogs in the pond btw, which is nice to see after many animals died during the bitter snows over Christmas. Some of the frogs survived in the pond, others are newcomers--frogs are on the move in the gardens at the back of our terrace.

Above is a picture of Bampton's 12th century church, which has been re-roofed over the last two years. The pitches above the choir (nearest end) were still being done when Downton Abbey was filmed and there was a very un-Edwardian-looking plastic canopy over them--see pic from last spring. I can't remember what the film makers did about blocking the canopy out in the film--maybe they slotted in a digital image of that half of the church. I'll have to check our DVD.

Now, at 9 am, it is surprisingly sunny and springlike outside. The weather forecasters seem to have got their predictions wrong.

Over breakfast I read Peter Kemp's review of Justin Cartwright's new novel Other People's Money in the Sunday Times. The novel charts the desperate struggles of crooked financiers and politicians to cover up a failing investment bank. Sounds a great read.

Friday 25 February 2011

jtns a year on, spring walk

Enjoyed strolling along the Oxford canal just now.

There was a warm south-west breeze and as I walked it was as if I slipped spring over my head like a sweater and wore it for a while.

justthoughtsnstuff.com is btw a year old now. Thanks for following!

Don't approve of picking snowdrops but liked the arrangement.

Thursday 17 February 2011


A copy of the uncut and unedited version of Invisible is now part of the Oxford University Research Archive (ORA).

If you want to view the file, follow the QR code above on your mobile phone or head for http://tinyurl.com/6ffu598.

The text in the archive is the self-same that I completed on the 24th April 2006. As I wrote the first draft during the preceding years, I edited what I had written each day when I got back home from working as a cataloguer at the Oxford Union Library. The original material would be typed into a Sharp organiser (most of the first draft) or an HTC Vario (the last couple of chapters) while I travelled on the 18 Bampton to Oxford bus.

During 2006/07 I rewrote the whole first draft and eventually decided to cut about 10,000 words--after having discussed the typescript with Keiren Phelan of Arts Council South East and Frank Cottrell Boyce. Although I think cutting was the right choice, it's nice to have the chance to make the uncut version available.

Friday 11 February 2011

bampton library read-in

I was honoured to be asked to take part in the read-in last Saturday at Bampton library, one of 20 that Oxfordshire County Council wants to close.

Supporters gathered in the Market Square before walking along Rosemary Lane to the seventeenth-century building that houses the library and meeting room. The building, along with the neighbouring houses and cottages, featured in the recent TV series Downton Abbey.

Kirsty Young started the event off by expressing wholehearted support for the read-in and saying how much libraries had meant to her when she was a child.

The read-in took place in the library meeting room and people dropped by throughout the morning to listen to the invited authors or to read a favourite poem or a passage from a cherished book. Meanwhile the library itself was open for business. Many books were borrowed and new members signed up.

Kirsty Young began the readings with a children's story and was great with the kids.

The guest writers included local authors Mary Hoffman (a veteran supporter of save-library campaigns), Linda Newbery, Candida Lycett Green, David Wiseman and Spooks writer Richard McBrian.

It was lovely to see Candida Lycett Green. In 2002 I reviewed her wonderful book Over the Hills and Far Away for the TLS. The book combines a celebration of the English countryside with memories of her father and mother, Sir John and Lady Betjeman. Candida wrote the book after making a journey through parts of England on horseback to raise money for a cancer charity--she had not long before been treated for breast cancer.

My readings were a short extract from Invisible about the rural landscape around Bampton and a poem by the Cuban writer and journalist Yndamiro Restano called Prison. Restano was imprisoned in the early 1990s for what he had written. The poem was taken from the anthology Another Sky, which is published in association with English PEN (http://www.englishpen.org), the organisation that campaigns for writers of conscience who are imprisoned or censored around the world.

I wanted to make the point that freedom of speech and an appreciation of how vital books are to our wellbeing, our education and to our culture are supposed to be prized in this country and how incomprehensible it is that libraries are being targeted for closure.