Saturday, 30 April 2011

bluebells, wild chervil and may, benjamin and iris, beryl and georgie















Only a short working week but I felt I really needed to get out on the bike this morning.

Saw this lovely patch of bluebells on the verge towards Black Bourton--framed by wild chervil (Cow Parsley) and may blossom. Is it my imagination or are the verges round Bampton richer in wild flowers than they used to be? I remember going to an Arvon writers retreat in deepest Devon at Totleigh Barton not long after we'd moved to Bampton. The Devon verges were stuffed with wild flowers and I thought, Why aren't ours like that?

There's a theory that long-dormant wild flower seeds will come back once the council and the farmers stop spraying insecticides and herbicides so much. Maybe it's true.

Read an interesting article in the Times today about depression by the psychotherapist Benjamin Fry. When he himself suffered depression after a financial crisis, Fry found that not only his own expertise but that of fellow professionals was of no help. I was struck by these lines, 'I tried another expensive psychiatrist, a leader in his field. He thought that I woke up early because in the Stone Age my weakness would have required me to get up before other predators to find easy kills. I began to realise that no one knew anything, yet everyone had an opinion.' [My italics.] That sentence in italics reminded me of the conclusion one reaches at the end of Iris Murdoch's A Fairly Honourable Defeat. When somebody we know goes through a crisis, so many of us--me included--have an opinion but often don't really work hard enough at thinking about what is really appropriate for the person. For Fry, real help was found at the Mellody House clinic in Arizona.

Was pleased that Master Georgie won the Best of Beryl Booker. Voted for this title myself. Not just because some of my words used to appear on the back cover (maybe still do) but because it is such a fine novel. (I posted my Evening Standard review of the book to justthoughtsnstuff.com last year, when Dame Beryl Bainbridge died.)

I had to go to work yesterday, so missed the wedding. Did check out the balcony scene later online, though (the best bit?). I was surprised by how little interest there seemed to be in celebrating in Oxford, Witney and Bampton.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

happy easter, downton, kelmscott picnic, invisible








































justthoughtsnstuff.com is the blog of novelist Frank Egerton. www.frankegerton.com

Happy Easter!

Bampton continues to enjoy amazingly sunny weather. The last couple of nights, after midnight, I've sat out on our tiny patio and read in the light from the kitchen window, every now and then sipping wine or gazing at the stars. I can't ever remember an April like this.

We had a great picnic on the banks of the Thames just below William Morris' manor at Kelmscott on Good Friday. Not far, in fact, from where the two main characters in Invisible picnic and argue. Fortunately, life didn't imitate fiction.

Meanwhile, the Downton Abbey sets have been packed up for a bit and the wonderful red charabanc--seen from the churchyard above--has been loaded onto its artic and driven home.

Enjoy today--and the bank holiday, if you're in the UK!

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

downton abbey, the wall, mr whicher








































justthoughtsnstuff.com is the blog of novelist Frank Egerton. www.frankegerton.com

Well, the Downton Abbey filming is over for the time being.

This time a beautiful red charabanc was unloaded from the back of an artic--the series being fascinating not just for its stars and plot but for its vehicles and set decoration.

One major event that got people in Bampton wondering recently was the collapse of a substantial section of stone wall. Sadly it fell on top of our friends' car and caused a lot of damage but I have to confess that my next thought after being concerned for our friends was what were the film-makers going to do now. What the film-makers did appears in one the photos above, though one wouldn't have known there had been any problems once the prop was put up.

Amazing to see streets clear of cars, which are usually bumper-to-bumper.

An old man told me once how he could remember when the first car started being parked in our street and how it had been the only one for several years.

Meanwhile, another film shot partly in Bampton, The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, goes out on ITV at 9 pm, Easter Monday.

woodstock, blenheim rules, shifford insect lodge



















Stayed in Woodstock last night. Had supper at a pub that was an intriguing mix of traditional English and downtown midwest USA.

Tried to get into Blenheim grounds this morning to do walk we did years ago. But when Jess showed her RHS card she was told that 'Blenheim rules' mean that only the RHS member can enter the grounds for free. The second person has to pay over £11.

Decided to return to Bampton and have a drink in the garden at the Trout at Tadpole, then walk to Shifford lock. Not before, though, calling in at the Woodstock Bookshop (http://www.woodstockbookshop.co.uk) to ask if they would be interested in stocking Invisible. Rachel Phipps said yes, which is great!

On the way to the bookshop we passed Brotherton's, where I used to work as barman back in the 80s.

Along the Thames path to Shifford, we saw a swallow, some reed buntings and a cormorant, and heard some reed warblers. Loved the bulrushes above and the fascinating insect lodge at Shifford lock.

Extraordinarily hot today--certainly didn't feel like April.

A terrific day--though spoilt at various times by the never-ending family problems.

Some behind-the-scenes photos of Downton Abbey filming tomorrow.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

cowslips















I mentioned in a post last year that I have a memory of lying in a watermeadow on Tynings Farm when I was a boy and staring into the cowslips that grew so thickly across the whole field. (I also remember watching people skating on the same field after the floods froze over one winter.)

You so rarely see wild cowslips in any great number nowadays but today when I was cycling I came across a broad verge with a fair number of them growing on it. Lovely to see!

Friday, 15 April 2011

yellow, green, blue




























Not into work till 10.30 this morning, so went cycling.

Took these pics along Calcroft Lane, aka the gated road (only the gates fell to bits ages ago).

The Thames floodplain is so wide round Bampton. Reminds me of the landscapes in those Hungarian films with unpronouncable names I used to watch at the NFT back in the late 70s.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

sunrise, keble, downton











































justthoughtsnstuff.com is the blog of novelist Frank Egerton. www.frankegerton.com

Brilliant sky over the end of the garden this morning as I was sipping my tea.

Not long to go now before I get some days off--yippee. Feeling like I need a break.

Had a lovely lunch at Keble during which I talked newsletters, which was fascinating. Loved being in the fellows dining-room for, I think, the first time since the finalists' supper back in '88.

Strange things have been happening south of the church in Bampton today. A postbox has replaced the dog-poo bin by the library. This can only mean one thing: filming of Downton Abbey Series Two is about to kick off.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

st frideswide's square


On the bus on the way home.

Went to colleague's leaving do at the Divinity School, which was fun. Good luck, Jayne! Lovely to see, amongst other old friends, Helen, who used to work at the Bod and who we knew when we lived on Osney.

Also went to a former diploma student's book launch in north Oxford. Look out for The Partridge and the Pelican by Rachel Crowther, Hookline Books, ISBN 9780956517791.

Hoped to hear Rachel read but had to leave before she had time to do so--too busy signing books. Can't be bad!

Beautiful sunset over St Frideswide's Square and the Said Business School when I started typing. Slightly melancholy in a chilly-tingly sort of way, it has to be said.

Now going through Eynsham listening to Zane Lowe's album of the week from Fleet Foxes. Gorgeous music.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

oxford lit fest, a book for all and none, sheep




Went to the Sunday Times Oxford Literary Festival yesterday to hear my MSt in Creative Writing boss, Clare Morgan, talk about her forthcoming novel, A Book for All and None (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, ISBN 978-0-297-86373-1).

She was appearing with Catherine Hall and Simon Lelic and the event was chaired by Rachel Hore.
An enjoyable hour of readings and discussions about writing, editing, writing about historical figures and the importance of a sense of place in fiction.

Getting to the event meant a lot of running in sweltering heat. The Park & Ride bus dropped me in a completely different place to where I'd been expecting, with only minutes to go before the event started. When did they change the route!

Bought a copy of Clare's book, which has its official launch in June.

First lie-in for a few weeks this morning. Cycle before late breakfast. Liked bucolic scene by moat-looking thing down by Tadpole Bridge, which I photographed last on what felt like the first day of spring at the start of the year.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

dibber, spuds, eucalyptus and what the butler saw

It's that time of year again.

Went up to allotment early, dug the last bit of spud ground and planted eleven rows.

Cara, Charlotte, Estima and Kestrel.

The sunny weather has been a gift as far as preparing the soil has been concerned. Plus not having to concentrate on Writers in Oxford literary festival things has meant I can get on with digging in late March/early April for the first time in, what, seven years?

Funnily enough we met up with our friends Carol and Steve last night--it was Carol who gave us the brilliant potato dibber in the photos. It belonged to her dad.

We shared a table with them at a rehearsed reading of Joe Orton's play What the Butler Saw at the village hall. Such a wacky play. And very nicely done--produced by neighbour Trevor Milne-Day.

Was intrigued by how strongly the shadow of the eucalyptus came out in the more general photo.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

sedge

Hottest day of the year coming up--so they say.

Lovely walk along the Oxford canal this morning, certainly.

Can't help thinking sedge is a much neglected plant.

Meanwhile sipping espresso (single) before work at the Woodstock Road Deli. Delicious.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

embers, flames, mist, osr, tadpoles and julie




























I love it when you come downstairs on some mornings and the logs in the fireplace look dead but when you start sweeping the grate you realise there are still embers and once you've pushed the logs together you soon have a fire that takes the chill off the room.

Not that it felt particularly chilly in the house or garden this morning. It was only when I was cycling away from the village that it was cold. Out in the lanes it was near freezing and the air nipped at my thumbs. There was a mist too hovering above the fields, including the one above. Oilseed rape just coming into flower.

Tadpoles in our pond btw.

Meanwhile over breakfast I read a lovely review of When the Children Came Home in the Sunday Times, the new oral history book by my friend and predecessor as chair of Writers in Oxford, Julie Summers.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

sunrise over bampton















Up early. Still surprised by how dark it is when I set off cycling at 6 since the clocks went forward. Extra evening light is great, though.

Was returning to Bampton just as the sun rose behind the church--its spire a tiny needle in the pic above.

More assignments to go through today.

Earlier in the week I went to the leaving do for my boss at the Taylor. Sad she's leaving--I owe her a lot--but what a terrific party! So nice to catch up with old friends and drink wine in beautiful neo-classical surroundings.