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 January 2012

thursday the twenty-sixth of january, little ouseburn

Dad’s funeral took place on Thursday.

He wanted to be buried in the Meysey-Thompson plot behind the Thompson Mausoleum in Little Ouseburn, Yorkshire--near Harrogate.

Dad’s mum’s family had lived at Kirby Hall, Little Ouseburn, until 1919 and the mausoleum had been where members of the family had been buried up until 1910. I’m not quite sure why burials in the mausoleum stopped but from the First World War onwards the family members were buried in the plot. The earliest graves in the plot are those of Dad’s grandfather, Lord Knaresborough, his wife and their son, Claude.

Claude was killed in the First World War and as a result his father decided to sell the hall and estate. All rather Downton Abbey. The hall was subsequently demolished. Only the entrance gates, the stable block and two lodges remain.

Dad provided information about the family's history when money was being raised to restore the mausoleum. Dad loved genealogy.

At the service, the reading I chose and read was taken from the Song of Solomon, chapter two verses eight to thirteen. The vicar asked me why I chose this reading. I have to confess that I started out trying to find a reading by googling funeral texts. It was when I saw the first lines of this reading that I remembered it from studying English at Keble. From what I remember the text had been referred to by a writer in the medieval or Renaissance period that I had been studying. The words seemed wholly appropriate to a gentle, loving man who adored the countryside.

The service, led by Father Parkin, was a lovely warm, enriching one. I was grateful to Father Parkin for reading the tribute to Dad that I had written--I could not have read this myself--and was very moved by the reminiscences of Dad’s army friend Jo.

In the graveyard, the spring sun shone.

Here is the text from the Song of Solomon.

8 The voice of my beloved! behold, he cometh leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills.
9 My beloved is like a roe or a young hart: behold, he standeth behind our wall, he looketh forth at the windows, shewing himself through the lattice.
10 My beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.
11 For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone;
12 The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land;
13 The fig tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.

Sunday 22 January 2012

hedging, part two

Very strong winds today. Made cycling tough--although I was pleased to have gone out there when I got back.

The light was beautiful. Really springlike.

Took these pics earlier in the week when I came across some more hedging--near Broadwell. The scene at the top--laid hedge, cuttings drawn into a pile and burnt--could have come straight from my childhood. Lovely to see hedges being laid in the traditional way in many different places round here.

The bottom photo is of an overgrown hedge near the one that has been laid. The pic shows what happens when a hedge is allowed to go wild. You end up with a lot of spindly poles and bushy thorns that eventually crowd each other out and lead to the death of the hedge. For a time this might be good for insects but in the end you'll get wind-throw--the poles being blown into the field or road--and the death of the hedge. The hedge will no longer be stock proof and in all probability will end up being grubbed up.

I think my dad would have loved seeing lots of hedges being laid in the traditional way.

Friday 20 January 2012


It has been a very sad week. My dad died on Tuesday.

I saw him a few days before. We were all there as a family once again and for me I found that love had hollowed out a space in which to breath and when it was pulled free it filled our world.

On the morning after he died, I saw that the fire we lit when we got back from the hospital was still glowing and I put a log on the embers and kept the fire going throughout the day.

I remember how we all loved sitting by the fire when I was boy.

When my dad judged I was old enough we went to the farmyard and he showed me how to split wood.

Saturday 14 January 2012

frost, moonlight, oclw, energy, new term

Quite a surprise to look out of the bedroom window and see the garden white with frost in the moonlight early this morning. A shock too as soon as I stepped outside to make holes in the ice on the frog pond. I'd forgotten how you have to tap extra reserves of energy when it's cold. Cycling was beautiful but hard going to begin with. (I delayed setting off until the sun was well up in order to try and avoid further accidents.)

It's been a better week as far as getting back to work is concerned. I feel I've done some productive things.

Mid-week, a friend emailed some information about lectures organised by the Oxford Centre for Life-Writing (OCLW), based at Wolfson College. She expected that I knew about the lectures already but sent the details just in case. I didn't know there was an OCLW, let alone that there were lectures. The series and the centre look fascinating--not least because I have become increasingly interested in life-writing since doing this blog (which I think of as a kind of real-time life-writing).

Meanwhile, the online creative writing course I teach has started and assignments from students on another course have arrived for marking. Walking along Broad Street in Oxford yesterday afternoon, I could feel the excitement and energy generated by the return of the students and the start of the new term.

Sunday 8 January 2012


Loved seeing some traditional hedging this morning when I went cycling.

There are a few people in the village who keep the art alive even though most farmers use flail trimmers that might do the job quick but which over a number of years create gappy boundaries full of cramped out and diseased trees.

The hedge above will be stock-proof and the plants will be reinvigorated by the pleaching and laying.

I remember Percy Curtis hedgelaying on the farm when I was boy. I remember the smell of the fires he lit to burn the thinnings he'd taken out. He worked steadily all day, dressed in a suit, waistcoat and collarless shirt. Another world. It was another world for those times too really.

On my desk I have a small white penknife with two narrow blades that Percy used when rabitting. I've opened letters and sharpened pencils with it for nearly forty years now. A treasured possession.


When our dog was a puppy, Jess used to give him cardboard boxes to play with, which he tore to pieces.

He'd not attacked a box for years before last Monday, when we were opening our last presents, but within a few minutes the sitting room floor was covered in debris. What had been in the box? A paper shredder.

Sunday 1 January 2012

cycling, ailments, flea, 2012

Good to cycle this morning--very refreshing.

Feeling much better now--my cold has pretty well gone and problems with my left foot that flared up, painfully, the day after our Badbury walk, have almost subsided.

(Incidentally, it was during the first morning on which my cold was noticeably better that the foot trouble started--I couldn't believe it. Minor ailments have just about spanned the whole holiday but come Tuesday, I shall be as fit as a flea...in time to go back to work.)

Meanwhile I was looking at my New Year post for last year, which was rather gloomy-looking and downbeat about the future. Listening to the news on the radio today, the outlook for 2012 is much worse, but speaking personally I can't imagine that this year will surpass 2011 in terms of family unhappiness and shock. I certainly hope not. Having said that, 2011 was also marked by love and friendship that more than counteracted the sadness, which I am very grateful for.

I'm looking to the future now.

Have a great 2012!

(Pics taken in Jess' garden 1st January 2012--from top: cavolo nero, hebe, winter salads.)