Thursday, 29 March 2012

oxford canal, clematis, maggie the cat


I haven't had time to walk by the Oxford Canal on my way to work for a couple of weeks. It was great to take that route this morning.

The canal has changed. Suddenly the towpath is bright green and there are wild flowers everywhere. Not that I think the clematis above is wild--a garden escape, more like. Still beautiful, though.

Later, walked from the centre of town to a training session at offices beyond Osney Island. Always good to revisit the Island.

Meanwhile, watched DVD of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958) this week. True, there are some dated bits but mostly it's such compelling viewing. There are moments that are spellbinding--and these aren't confined to Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor's performances. What is striking is the strength of all the performances, each character having outstanding scenes.

Monday, 26 March 2012

spring flowers, filmscript, mst cw, podcast













New phone, new camera.

Great to see so much blossom and so many spring flowers coming out. The magnolia, above top, was in neighbouring village of Alvescot and the white violets and gorgeous kingcups were along Calcroft Lane (aka the gated road). The cherry is by the entrance to Bampton Library (aka Downton Cottage Hospital).

Yesterday, when these photos were taken, was beautiful--first brunch on patio.

Finished the dialogue for the short filmscript last week. A fascinating experience--many thanks to James Lawes for giving me the opportunity to work on that.

Meanwhile, lovely to hear from friend from Keble days, who got in touch out of the blue. I haven't seen her since the late 80s but hope to meet soon and catch up.

The MSt in Creative Writing residence took place over the weekend. Enjoyed seeing students and colleagues again. A novelty was being filmed for course podcast. Each person only had 30 seconds to say their bit but that proved challenging--tripped over my words, take one; dried, take two; take three, OK.

Monday, 19 March 2012

frost, sunny morning, piers, drought and all



















A frost this morning. While there was no ice on the frog pond, the lawn and garden were white.

A beautiful cycle ride--I was at home today, on leave.

Fascinated in particular by the reflection of the water against the piers of the bridge over the Great Brook near Chimney. Amazing how low the water is in the brook, though. Drought and all.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

hockney, ebury wine bar, mercedes taxi















Went to the David Hockney exhibition at the Royal Academy earlier.

Huge and overwhelming but well worth the visit. Particularly liked the fourth gallery which contains Yorkshire landscapes 'painted directly from observation' in 2004-2005. Several of these reminded me of John Nash's work (see my 'spring!, long winter, ageing, john nash, tyres-some' post of 26th February).

My favourite image, though, was in the next gallery, Tunnels, and was entitled Winter Tunnel with Snow (it was also reminiscent of Nash). The painting evoked scenes I've seen over the years in other contexts (see this post, for example) and was remarkably vivid both close up and from a distance. In fact you noticed different things depending on the distance--the shadows on the snow were especially striking from the other side of the gallery.

Also loved the videos that Hockney made (using a curious rig of nine HD cameras fixed to a Jeep)--both the ones of hedgerows and woods and the lovely ones of dancers--and the sketchpads and iPads (for more on Hockney and iPad drawings, follow these BBC and Louisiana Museum links).

After the exhibition I was treated to a delicious lunch at the Ebury Wine Bar, an old favourite that was as good as ever.

Travelled in a Mercedes taxi too. I'm sufficiently non-London savvy to have wondered if you could actually hail one of these cabs (there weren't such things the last time I flagged down a London taxi). Indeed, sitting in the back of the cab I was trying to remember the last time I did travel in a London taxi...

Oh dear!

Saturday, 17 March 2012

rain, flowers, frogs, achy shoulders, filmscript, hollybush



















When I got up it was raining, though later the sun came through.

Took these photos in the garden at about 7.15 am. If you click on the pond (puddle) one you should be able to make out some of the masses of frogs that live there. Amorous times there just at the minute.

Loved getting out on the bike after what was a busy week. Lots of typing, what with one thing and another, to the point of making my shoulders ache. So, what do I do to relax--I type a blog.

Meanwhile the online course comes to an end this weekend, which is sad because it's been great fun working with the students. I'm also starting on the next stage of the short filmscript.

Took a break by heading off to Witney on the 19 bus for lunch at the Hollybush. Signs in the pub suggest it's pushing its Twitter account.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

mist again















Day off today--from Oxford-based work, at least.

Had intended to cycle but the fog was so thick that I decided to go for a walk instead. This was the first time I'd walked the fields surrounding the village on a weekday morning for ages. Just how long it's been was brought home to me by the fact that I didn't recognise any of the dog walkers (the mist wasn't THAT thick).

So far, the day's pace has been lovely. I'll be working on the filmscript later, though.

Monday, 12 March 2012

cranes, mist, filmscript, john frankenheimer

















Misty start to the day--and if the journey home from Witney is anything to go by, it'll be another misty night.

Loved the way the cranes on the Radcliffe Infirmary Quarter site almost disappeared in the mist.

Starting work on a short filmscript today. Fascinating project.

Meanwhile, watching The Manchurian Candidate remake on DVD. Strong performances from Denzel Washington, Meryl Streep, Liev Schreiber and John Voight but still a pale shadow of the John Frankenheimer original. There's a great YouTube interview with JF btw.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

calcroft lane ii


Today the sun is shining--the hottest day of the year, it feels like--and Calcroft Lane is a very different place.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

life writing, party, vodka, cadiz constitution, calcroft lane home movie, helen r





It's been a busy week with lots happening at work.

Though there have also been, I'm pleased to say, cultural and social things. On Tuesday, I went to an inspiring talk at Wolfson College that rounded off the Oxford Centre for Life Writing's Hilary series of events. Dr Olivia Smith from St John's spoke about John Locke in an informal dining-room setting, the spring sunlight streaming in, as we ate our sandwich-and-fruit lunch and listened. (At one point, I was distracted by a long-tailed tit that repeatedly flew at one of the panels in the vast concrete-mullioned window and pecked, apparently in disbelief, at the glass. Mercifully, the flights were carefully judged and gentle and the bird didn't seem to harm itself.)

The talk touched on areas of life writing that seemed to have a direct bearing on the novel I'm working on at present. I was particularly interested in what was termed 'aggregation versus disaggregation'. Here are the relevant notes:

'Tendency to split different parts of a life up in modern biographies...Whereas perhaps in earlier times things were more mixed up. More like the diary approach--Bridget Jones talking about booze and fags one minute, more serious things the next. More realistic perhaps? (Post modern, maybe?) Shandyan. A wish to not tie things up too tightly...Compartmentalism--and people not letting you into vulnerable areas of their life. Coping with life today leads to more fragmentation and compartmentalisation...Do novels often seek to rationalise or unify people's lives? A simplification? A tidying up?'

Compartmentalisation, fragmentation and the way people modify their behaviour in different areas of their increasingly complex lives are all themes that I'm exploring in the novel.

I was glad to be able to attend the lunch and talk, having missed all the evening lectures in the series, despite promising myself I would attend every one of them at the start of the year. I shall have to do better in Trinity.

On Thursday I had another delicious and convivial lunch at St Antony's and in the evening went to a staff party that was hosted by a colleague in her lovely house in Temple Cowley. Everyone was very relaxed and the atmosphere was great. My colleague is Russian and produced some vodka at one point which she was keen everyone should down in one. A bracing experience--that made me realise it must be twenty years since I last drank vodka.

Yesterday, I attended the Colloquium on the Cadiz Constitution of 1812, which was held at the Taylor Institution and was part-organised by a colleague. The event was sponsored by the Instituto Cervantes and there should be a film of some of it on the institute's TV channel pages shortly. What struck me most about the event was the clarity and vividness of the speakers' talks. That given by Sir John Elliott was of particular interest to me because he discussed the roles played by Spaniards from Latin America during the promulgation of the constitution and how the freedoms the constitution attempted to enshrine were the same ones that were rapidly leading to the disintegration of the Spanish Empire.

After the talks we all went through to a terrific exhibition, organised by my colleague, of books associated with the constitution held in Oxford libraries, including José Maria Blanco White's personal copy of the constitution's text. The exhibition was formally opened by the Spanish Ambassador, Carles Casajuana, before things were rounded off with a wine reception.

Meanwhile, the day was warming up when I went cycling earlier and now there is bright sun. The daffodils planted round the trees is Bamton and neighbouring villages are coming into flower. Those in the photo are at Black Bourton. I also took the little video of part of Calcroft Lane during the cycle ride. It shows--in rather home-movie style--such things as the heavy farm machinery that gets put in front of gateways to prevent fly-tipping, the bridge over the old Oxford branchline, the hedging I've been talking about recently and the way that the landscape opens out, as you near Clanfield, onto Thames Valley, which is especially wide round here--stretching for one-to-two miles.

Is Calcroft Lane good telly? Probably not but it keeps me amused.

Good to hear my friend Helen Rappaport on Radio 4 this morning, discussing Victoria and Albert.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

that downton abbey time of year again














If I'm not mistaken the Downton Abbey filmcrew have arrived in Bampton early this year.

This could be to shoot scenes against more wintry-looking backgrounds before returning in the spring proper. (Was it just me who thought that Downton and its environs looked remarkably early-summerish throughout the last series, no matter what time of year the script said it was?)

The back streets of Bampton (those mean back streets) are today decked out with bunting, though filming is taking place well out of range of cameraphones in the churchyard and church itself. (You can just catch sight of some becassocked actors by the church in the fourth photo down.) There is a wedding, apparently, though whose it could be escapes me.

Long lenses were out in force.

Meanwhile, what started as a very wintry morning when I went cycling has turned out to be rather fine. I have to say I'm a little tired after a couple of busy weeks and weekends. Just an hour or so more of work to do then I can relax (and head off for pint). Log delivery--the last of the season, I suspect--tomorrow.

Friday, 2 March 2012

mist, st a's, bampton, oxford canal


















Misty start yesterday and today. Only yesterday, the sun had burnt the mist off by twelve and what followed was a gorgeous spring afternoon.

Had a delicious lunch with colleagues at St Antony's, the sun streaming into the hall.

Discovered over coffee that the mansion that became the hall of residence I lived in for a year when I was at Cirencester had not only once been owned by relatives of one of the colleagues but had been built from stone salvaged after another of her family's houses was demolished south of Birmingham.

I remember sharing what must have been one of the mansion's grand front bedrooms with two fellow students, Richard and Adrian. The high-ceilinged room was very cold in winter and once I came back from lectures to find that Richard had torn away the hardboard that covered the big fireplace and was lolling in front of a blazing log fire.

Sadly, the mist today hasn't lifted. The scenses above--taken in Bampton and along the Oxford canal--were atmospheric, certainly, but also capped the day. A cap that fitted the day and the day wore it. Until now, oddly, when all of a sudden the sun is lighting up the stone on the other side of St Giles', as I take my break... Maybe the bus journey home will be beautiful.