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 29 May 2011

shirt race, not, courgettes and cucumbers, peonies and the garden

The Bampton Morris dancing and folk weekend is in full swing. Sadly, though, I fell asleep and missed the Shirt Race, so no pics of the Downton Abbey rig that Keith on the allotments told me about. Ah well.

Hoping to stay awake for a bit of folk music down the pubs this evening.

Meanwhile, planted out cucumber and courgette seedlings on the allotment this afternoon. I forked through the places where I was going to plant them to a fork's depth and made dishes in the soil so the seedlings were below the surface and protected from the wind. The wind is relentless and has sucked nearly all the moisture out of the ground since the rains on Thursday.

I'm sad to say that usually I struggle to cultivate the plot because my times up there are limited to when I have gaps in my work schedule and usually when I'm free it's raining. As a result I'm usually still battling away by now. This year, getting up on the allotment has been no problem, what with all the dry weather. So, usually, it's chaos but productive chaos. This year it's a well-tended desert.

Here are some pics of Jess' garden instead.

Wednesday 25 May 2011

rose fall, morris, folk and woodstock

The winds have died down but not before a rose and catoneaster half-collapsed at the far end of the garden. Fighting your way under the rose when trying to get to the shed is entertaining--and painful if you misjudge things.

The coming weekend sees the annual Morris dancing and folk music festival in Bampton. As always I'm looking forward to hearing the musicians in the pubs on Saturday and Sunday nights. Oh, and there'll be the Great Original Shirt Race on Saturday evening.

Took the above photo in Woodstock yesterday.

Sunday 22 May 2011

strong winds, lime tree

It was hard work cycling this morning. Strongest winds for a few years. I got blown back, though, which was nice. Record time between Clanfield and Bampton, pedalling furiously in 21st gear. Scary at times.

I've been watching the lime at the end of our garden as it gets blown about. Rather beautiful. Video shows it in some middlingly strong gusts.

Friday 20 May 2011

brewery gate, st thomas'

I was sad to see the old Brewery Gate pub boarded up when walking through St Thomas' in Oxford earlier in the week. From the for sale sign it looks as if it is being sold for development--residential, most likely.

The sale marks the end of the Morrell's Brewery story for me. When I first moved to Osney Island, a little further to the west of St Thomas', the brewery was still working and the smell of the malt wafting across Park End and Hythe Bridge Streets was always a delight when heading into town to the libraries on brewing days. The Brewery Gate was, as its name suggests, by the Morrell's gate, with its elaborate iron arch, and was the brewery pub.

For a time in the nineties we used to walk over there on Saturday nights for a pint or two quite often and it was always a place we visited every now and then during all the fourteen years we lived on the Island.

I can remember one afternoon years ago when I'd submitted a review for a paper and I went to the Gate for a drink to celebrate. I sat in a corner, enjoyed the bitter and read a few Llewellyn Powys stories from a first edition I'd bought.

The last time I visited was to attend a meeting about the Oxford fringe festival. The pub was different from what I remembered--dark and crowded with people speaking over a wining mike and stand-up going on in a corner. Fun, though.

It's strange to think that for much of the time we were on Osney, St Thomas' had virtually no residential property and yet the pub still seemed to do a good trade. Now all the old offices and businesses--even the brewery itself--have been redeveloped as flats. The area is teaming with people, yet the pub shuts down.

I remember doing some research into the plans for redeveloping St Thomas' at the county library yonks ago. Places like Fisher Row had been condemned and the families moved out to estates on the edge of town during the mid-1950s but then the scheme had ground to a halt for almost fifty years while the council, I suppose, resolved various issues. I'm not sure what the sticking point was but what surprised me was that the council drew up the original plans for condemning the houses and redeveloping the area during the Second World War. So odd to think of all those urban renewal debates and all that town planning going on while the bombs fell on less fortunate cities.

I remember talking to my friend Bill who used to deliver the papers on Osney about what it was like growing up on Fisher Row during the forties and fifties. He told me about how he and the other children had eagerly awaited the baker putting out the big jam tins after he'd filled cakes and doughnuts. The baker would always leave some jam for the kids as a treat. Bill loved it there, I think.

Sunday 15 May 2011


Ridged up spuds on allotment yesterday and put up runner bean wigwams today. No sign of seeds I sowed three weeks ago coming through. Ground warm but as dry anything. Still, tilled earth looks nice--apart from bindweed, which I pulled this afternoon. Fistfuls.

Enjoyed cycling this morning. The meadows along the Great Brook from the Isle of Wight bridge, though, are parched now. The water level in the Great Brook is low, as it is in the strange semi-circular 'moat' at the far end of the first field up from the bridge. Compare this view with that of a few weeks ago and at the start of the year.

Sunday 8 May 2011

rain, barley, allotment, carbon

I didn't think the scud on Friday night that forced us into the Horse Shoe from the beer garden would come to anything. It seemed to have passed by the time the pint of IPA had been drunk and we were on our way home. It was a pleasant surprise to be woken by a downpour in the middle of the night that continued off and on well into Saturday. More rain last night too.

I can't remember when it last rained. Tufty certainly seemed bemused by it. He'd forgotten how much he enjoys splashing about in it and hid in the bedroom when Jess wanted to take him for a walk.

Rain is great for the garden and really helped the spuds grow beyond the vicious frost mid-week that burnt their leaves.

Beautiful cloudy skies, although the rain and the high winds that accompanied it have taken much of the blossom from the trees and the countryside is suddenly early-June green. Loved the barley, trees and big sky in the pic above, when I was cycling along the gated road this morning.

Had a good hour or so on the allotment after a late breakfast. Another hour and the ground will all have been prepared. The rain has cheered up not just spuds but last year's chard and this year's shallots and onions. Hopefully the seeds I planted ten days ago will be through soon too.

Downloaded what Nokia described as a recommended software upgrade yesterday. As promised new phone features duly appeared. What disappeared though was the pre-loaded carbon black background I like. Had to go to the Ovi store and pay £3 to get it back. Nice work Nokia.

Sunday 1 May 2011

honeysuckle, ed sheeran, candidate23, tracy chapman

Wild honeysuckle out along Calcroft Lane (the gated road). This is too early! You'd expect to see it in June or July, surely.

Still, it is very beautiful.

Made our way to the Victoria at Eastleach Turville in deepest south Cotswolds earlier--excellent Arkell's Royal Wedding.

A couple of music recommendations: Ed Sheeran--album coming out in September--and the young band Candidate23.

Also, phenomenal that Tracy Chapman's in the charts again.