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 February 2012

spring!, long winter, ageing, john nash, tyres-some

Amazing morning!

Had breakfast with the door to the garden open, after a lovely cycle ride through west Oxfordshire.

Got up early because I have a lot of work to do, writing up comments on assignments. Loved seeing how soon the daylight came--well before seven. And the evenings are light at six still. This last winter shouldn't have seemed so long (the 2010/11 one was way harsher) but it did to me. I think I aged several years.

But on a day like today, all is forgotten.

Photographed the patch of snowdrops in Black Bourton, the neighbouring village, and took the picture of the new ditch along the newly-laid hedge off Calcroft Lane (aka the Gated Road--the one without the gates) on my way home. The latter view made me think of John Nash's work. I spent many, many hours staring at the illustrations in John Nash: 'The delighted eye' by Allen Freer during the mid-to-late nineties and the early two-thousands. He is one of my favourite artists, if not my favourite. His views of often out-of-the-way corners of countryside, almost overlooked places, are magical and timeless.

Then there were the tyres along Calcroft Lane. Sad.

Wednesday 22 February 2012

aclaiir, paddington

Enjoyed attending the committee meeting of ACLAIIR (Advisory Council on Latin American and Iberian Information Resources) at the BL (British Library) today. Oh, you didn't realise that librarians liked acronyms.

A lovely journey up and a great meeting. Looking forward to the AGM in Oxford in the summer.

I liked catching trains to and from Paddington, which has been my London station all my life. I remember Dad and I on my first train journey when I must have been about 8 or 9, not long after the Badminton branch line had been axed, so we had to travel from Kemble station. The trip to Hamleys and seeing all the conjuring tricks they sold was amazing.

I was a little thrown by the fact that Swindon appeared on the list of stations on the train I was sitting on this evening but realised my mistake. The train would have got me home at one time in my life but not today.

Sunday 19 February 2012

the difference a day makes

Readers of this blog will have seen this tree before in various guises. These two photos were taken just over a day apart. The upper one yesterday, when the morning was bleak and cold and grey, the other this morning, when the sun was shining and it was a beautiful spring day.

I like this view even though the photos I take don't really do it justice. You can just make out the escarpment on the other side of the Thames Valley in the top picture. The tree stands at a relatively high point for this part of Oxfordshire and you can see how the land falls away into the valley itself about a mile beyond the tree before rising again another mile further on. The view here has a depth to it and a sense of geographical relief that is rare round Bampton.

Went to the Rose and Crown, North Parade, Oxford yesterday and then to the Cherwell Boathouse restaurant, where we had a delicious meal, saw a kingfisher zipping from perch to perch and reminisced about the times when we'd eaten at the restaurant before over the last twenty-six years. About the punting trips to the Victoria Arms and about our wedding breakfast after the service at Binsey.

It was a long and busy week last week. I think I've just about managed to catch up on some rest before the next one starts. It's strange how thoughts of the past have been barging into my mind, though. How the family got into the mess it got in recently and of better times when Dad was in his prime.

Monday 13 February 2012

warming, ice breaker, winter trap

It looks like the cold spell is over, though it is taking a while for the ice to melt. It was breaking up on the Oxford Canal ealier, at least.

Some mornings last week, the house stayed cold, even though the central heating had been on for hours. Saturday morning was bad, despite the sun.

I think I got fed up with the cold because the days are lengthening now and I felt the year should be opening up. Instead the cold just made me feel trapped by winter.

Sunday 12 February 2012

bill heine, goridebus, papers, andrew, nelle davy, raúl, benedict, david

An interesting and enjoyable start to the day, appearing on the Bill Heine programme on BBC Oxford.

I and another guest Danny Douglas were on during the first hour of the show, discussing news stories we picked out in the Sunday papers.

I'd not met Bill before, although I've come across him from time to time during my years in Oxford. He's the guy with the shark embedded in the roof of his terraced house in Headington.

I first saw Bill when I was queuing to see Duncan Campbell's banned Zircon spy satellite film at the Not the Moulin Rouge cinema, which Bill owned. I'd cycled up Headington Hill from Keble on a cold night in 1987, eager to see what all the fuss was about and to be part of the controversy. Before we were let in, Bill sauntered up and posed for the cameras.

More recently I saw Bill at the Kennington Literary Festival last October, where he was reading from his book, Hunting the Shark. I was at the event reading from Invisible--though not in the main hall, where Bill was.

The other guest on today's programme, Danny, has a community transport company called Go Ride, which is running a new evening and Sunday bus service between Watlington and Oxford and is applying for Big Society funding (see www.goridebus.co.uk).

During the programme we talked about a number of issues, including:
  • The tragic death of Whitney Houston
  • The state of publishing in the era of the e-book
  • Health Secretary Andrew Lansley's plan to coax brewers into lowering the strength of beers in an attempt to reduce binge drinking--part of the government's sensible drinking campaign
  • The rise of internet dating, which now accounts for one-in-five UK relationships (as the Sunday Times piece put it: "Once derided as the resort of the romantically inept, online dating has lost its stigma..."
  • Nelle Davy's debut novel, The Legacy of Eden, written while working as a PA at literary agent PFD, which is set on a farm in Iowa and is a reimagining of Robert Graves' I Claudius
  • Raúl Castro's reforms in Cuba, including oil exploration, mass tourism, private enterprise and organised religion (Pope Benedict XVI visits the island next month)
  • David Miliband's six-point plan to reduce the number of long-term unemployed young people.
If you'd like to listen to the programme, it's on the iPlayer till next Sunday.

Friday 10 February 2012

snowy start in bampton

Overnight snow doesn't seem to have been too heavy. Temperature has risen too--though it is set to plummet again tonight.

RH Buses posted a message on their website at midnight saying their services would run--though delays were possible--and sure enough the 18 to Oxford turned up, only fifteen minutes late. The main roads are clear but some snow remains on the lanes.

It's been a busy, tiring week but the snow is pretty and cheering. Looking forward to a lie-in tomorrow.

Sunday 5 February 2012

snow, saunter, wander, walk, catching up

The snow came as forecast yesterday afternoon. Today it looked pretty before near enough melting away by evening. The sky was overcast and the landscape seemed smoky for most of the day. The sun burst through briefly at about three.

Tufty loved the snow, including a saunter along the freshly whitened pavements to the Horse Shoe last night and a wander round the village at about midnight. We all had a great walk this morning.

The hazel catkins in the Millennium Wood, shown above, emerged during the warm spell in mid January. Some appear to have been burnt by the cold but most look alright. Meanwhile the recent frosts have helped to break down the ground on the allotment. Only some chard and beetroot remain to be harvested--though the spuds, onions and challottes in store are holding up.

Felt exhausted yesterday afternoon and at times today. I think the reality of the last couple of weeks is catching up with me.

Saturday 4 February 2012

another week, ice

Another week.

Actually, it has been a better one than the last two. How it could fail to be?

Work has helped--the tasks and routines--although thoughts and feelings have caught up with me, often when least expected.

The support of family, friends and colleagues has been amazing.

Meanwhile, the frog pond froze over at the beginning of the week and the ice has been getting thicker each day. This morning was SO cold! Lots of trips to the top of the garden with the Zanzibar six-cup coffee maker to melt holes in the ice to help the frogs get some air. They seem pretty torpid but appear to be doing well.

The outlook is rising temperatures--though with these will come the snow...

Saw the ducks, above, on the frozen-over Oxford canal on Thursday when walking to work. The other pic shows ice on the inside of our bedroom window. (The bedroom isn't heated in the belief that this is healthy. Not sure that's quite true just at the mo.)