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 26 June 2011

cara spuds and mange tout peas

Into Oxford early for MSt tutes. Very rewarding.

Then back home to do some gardening.

I had a coffee at Caffe Nero before the tutes--all my usual coffee places being shut at around 8 am on a Sunday. And very nice CN was too. Delicious coffee and a great ambience.

Oxford was so quiet at that time.

It was also quite cool. I was not prepared for the wall of heat that hit me when I left Rewley House after my second tute.

Back home, I mowed the lawn then watered the allotment, before lifting our first potatoes. Two roots of Cara. Smallish spuds but a better size, and more numerous, than I was expecting.

Jess harvested her first mange touts in the garden at the cottage too.

Friday 24 June 2011

radcliffe infirmary

This morning, as I walked from the Latin American Centre towards St Giles, it looked as if someone had done a Christo on the Radcliffe Infirmary--Christo himself, perhaps?

Prosaically, it seems the wrapping is merely the latest phase of Oxford University's project to restore the 1770 building before it becomes home to the Humanities Divisional Office, two Bodleian Libraries' collections and a Faculty in 2012 (see the project website and live webcam).

It will be interesting to see the building when the wrapping is taken off.

By the time I moved to Oxford the Infirmary had ceased to be the city's main hospital--the new JR having opened in 1979--though I do remember being brought to the Infirmary from Stowe after breaking my arm during a judo competition. For some reason I'd decided not to wait for the minibus to take me back to the school after the competition, having retired early, and walked the two or three miles home. The arm didn't hurt that much until the evening. I didn't sleep a wink in the sick-room that night.

Wednesday 22 June 2011

rickety press, jericho

This morning, I was pleased to see that what used to be the Radcliffe Arms in Jericho is reopening as an Arkells' pub called the Rickety Press (where did that name come from!).

The Radcliffe closed some time ago and I feared the premises would end up residential.

Not that I'd been in the Radcliffe for a while--the Harcourt Arms a couple of hundred yards away had become our Jericho pub--but I have happy memories of going there in the 80s, when working on the Moving Mystery Theatre project for Oxford Drama Programmes. In fact most of my salary for that project (which I business managed) got spent in the Radcliffe (on food as well!).

I also remember a really warm chat in the front bar with Jackie C the morning after Rob Russell's stag night.

Monday 20 June 2011

bl, aclaiir, jack c, spitfire, sausage & mash

London is wet and on the X90 it's sweltering.

Had a great day at the ACLAIIR AGM at the British Library, though. Everyone was so welcoming and the talks were really interesting. The only disappointment was getting to the BL after the library tour had started. Just how early do you have to get up to make King's Cross by 9:30 am? Earlier than 4.30, obviously.

Realised, as the coach reached the city, that I haven't been to London for a fair few years. Although it's not been quite as long a gap as Jack on the Island meant when he told me in the late 90s that he'd not been to London for a 'year or two, boy'. Turned out his last visit was in 1945 when he was demobbed.

Had a pint of Spitfire and a plate of sausage and mash for supper.

Now, a snooze.

Saturday 18 June 2011

wet morning in bampton, dmug, swindon viewpoint, john grierson, aclaiir

Enjoyed cycling this morning, despite it being grey after overnight rain. It's been a long week, what with one thing and another.

The rain started in west Oxfordshire on Thursday and has kept going off and on ever since. Right on cue for the ripening barley. It said on Radio 4's Farming Today this morning that we might see the worst harvest for thirty years after the drought and now the untimely downpours. I have to say the crops do look sick, even when they're turning and should be at their best.

Had the bright idea of filming as I cycled back through the village--blame it on the Digital Media Users Group meeting I attended yesterday. This was the second meeting and both it and the first were excellent. The group is a low-key but really inspiring initiative. One of yesterday's speakers was a colleague who produced the terrific website for the Bodleian Libraries' Shelley's Ghost exhibition.

Years ago I did a Super 8 course at Swindon college of further education and some camera work for Swindon Viewpoint community TV, and I still love the idea of playing around with film. I wrote a script for Swindon Viewpoint based at four locations: the church in Cirencester, the market in the main street, the Crown pub and the bingo hall. It was about commerce and booze and how the church remained serene but empty. It was supposed to be a homage to the documentary film maker John Grierson, whose work I'd got into at a retrospective at the Nation Film Theatre. Sadly--or perhaps fortunately, for the channel's subscribers--the film was never made. When I turned up to discuss the shooting schedule, the guys were packing up. The channel had fallen victim to Mrs T's cuts. Axed overnight.

Meanwhile, I'm looking forward to attending my first ACLAIIR AGM next week at the BL (Advisory Council on Latin American and Iberian Information Resources). Early start, though. Help.

I was feeling refreshed and reasonably fit when I got home after cycling--until I listened to the soundtrack on the video. Talk about last gasp ;-)

Tuesday 14 June 2011

oxford canal bridge, nag's head, yaffling

Walked along the Oxford canal this morning from North Oxford (the excellently named Elizabeth Jennings Way) to the very end, opposite the pub that I always think of as the Nag's Head. A favourite pub when I first moved out of Keble to the flat on Osney Island.

The bridge in the photo is the last before the final arm of the canal. It curves over the narrow lock that leads into the system of Thames streams that flow on past Fisher Row, the old brewery and the castle, before rejoining the river.

The bridge featured in my first novel The Lock and is also opposite Worcester College cricket ground--the only one in Oxford inside a college boundary. Happy memories of playing in Simon Hiscock's team; of hearing a woodpecker yaffling in the late afternoon; of drinking beer into the evening on the pavilion verandah. (I have to say that I was more there for the yaffling and beer rather than being an asset to the team.)

Saturday 11 June 2011

hogweed and hemlock?

Went cycling early because I've got a fair amount of work to get through today--until 4 pm, that is, when we'll head down the pub. Where else?

We've had some rain over the last couple of days, which is helping the garden and the allotment to pick up. I dare say the field crops will benefit, although I suspect they need far more rain than we are likely to get, if the yields are to be any good.

Many of the hedgerow plants have gone over and the countryside looks a uniform unhealthy-seeming green, increasingly pocked with burnt up patches. Only a few poppies add colour. Apart that is from hogweed and other members of the carrot family. These are doing quite well, as ever. I love the pinky-tinged top to some of the hogweed umbels and the way these flower heads unpack themselves--first two pics above. I think the photos really do show hogweed, although it is so difficult to tell with this family of plants. If someone knows better, let me know. And is the last pic hemlock? I thought so. Whatever the plant is, though, it's excelled itself. Nine foot tall, on a patch of waste ground just below Cowleaze Corner as you head towards the village from Clanfield.

Wednesday 8 June 2011

a book for all and none

Finished my online teaching in the Upper Reading Room of the Bodleian at 6.30 and headed for a pint at the Turf. Pub packed with joyous finalists.

Then on to Blackwell and the launch of my colleague (that should read boss) Clare Morgan's first novel, A Book for All and None.

I've not seen that many people at Blackwell for a launch for a long while. A great evening catching up with old friends and meeting new people, and listening to Clare's reading. That included that very long sentence that nevertheless hangs together and makes perfect sense. Nicely read.

A why-didn't-I-think-of-that book, I have to say.

Now on the bus home. Bright, frosty-looking sky to the west. Frost in mid-June? That's what they say, come Friday morning.

Saturday 4 June 2011

whitsun bank holiday morris dancing, bampton

Here's a short video of some Morris dancing in Bampton square last Monday.

It was edited in-camera (or should that be, in-phone) and the sound's a bit jumpy. Still, it gives you a glimpse of the day's festivities. The heavy rain had stopped at this point--about 5.30 in the afternoon.

Wednesday 1 June 2011

folk, morris, fertility cake

Didn't go out on Saturday for the late sessions--too tired.

Made it to see some music on Sunday night, though, and enjoyed the Morris dancing on Monday Bank Holiday.

Loved the way the Morris dancers kept going despite the rain, while spectators huddled under umbrellas and nibbled barbecue food. (And downed the odd glass, I dare say.)

It was great to catch up with old friends and have a couple of days off in the village.

Nibbled some crumbs of fertility cake at one gathering. The elderly baker of this cake suggested it was land that would benefit from the eating, not the eater of the cake. So, the allotment will be springing to life.