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.

Monday 28 May 2012

sea lions vid, back home, english pen's: big writing for a small world

Forgot about this video of the sea lions.

Now back home--to find the excellent English PEN publication, Big Writing for a Small World, waiting for me. It features poems and prose from adult refugees from centres across the UK.

I'm a little puzzled about how non-English PEN members can get a copy--presumably from the society direct. Anyway, the ISBN is 978-0-9564806-7-5. Well worth tracking down. Actually, just found Scribd online copy!

Sunday 27 May 2012

show dogs, leaving sf, ace film

Having breakfast at Show Dogs on Market (coffee, poached egg and spicy sausage) before checking out of the hotel and heading for the airport.

Sad to be leaving--loved the LASA Congress and the city. Looking forward to being home too, though.

Grey, overcast sky today and chilly.

Some last photos of SF from yesterday. The cityscape one looks a bit spotty, having been taken through a window at SFMOMA (tut-tut).

Chilean film Nostalgia de la luz was amazing btw--beautifully filmed and very moving, juxtaposing meditations on astronomy and archaeology and memories of people imprisoned in one of Pinochet's concentration camps in the Atacama desert, as well as film of the women who still dig in the desert, hoping to find the remains of their loved ones who disappeared during the dictatorship.
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Saturday 26 May 2012

sfmoma, photography in mexico, romance, iguanas, che, saying goodbye, nostalgia

Visited SFMOMA this morning to see the Mexico in Photography exhibition that by happy coincidence is on just round the corner from the LASA congress.

The exhibition has been assembled from photos held by SFMOMA and covers the 1920s to the present. From wonderful patterned images influenced by European 1920s photographers to edgily poignant aerial shots of contemporary Mexico City and the attempts by Mexicans to cross the desert to the US.

Highlights included the work of Tina Modotti and Edward Watson who lived and worked together in Mexico in the 20s (how romantic is that); Manuel Alvarez Bravo (especially Diego Rivera pintando un mural, 1930s); Manuel Carrillo's extraordinary image of a vast pack of wild dogs, 1975 (thought I could spot Tufty's cousin a few times removed in that one); the photos of Rodrigo Moya, icluding Che melancolico, La Habana, Cuba, 1964; Graciela Iturbide's images of festivals--for example, Nuestra Senora de las iguanas (woman wearing an amazing hat made of iguanas!); and Oscar Fernando Gomez's wonderfully quirky colour shots from the 2000s.

Last visit to the book fair followed. Bought, amongst other titles, Remembering Che: my life with Che Guevara by Che's widow, Aleida March, new out from Ocean Press and already well received. Sad to be saying goodbye to SALALM friends who have been so welcoming.

Seeing the Chilean film, Nostalgia de la luz later--which is about memory, astronomy and archaeology, amongst other things.
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sutter, marti, lineamientos, time passing, sf city hall

Sitting in the Sutter Pub on Taylor, after a day at the LASA Congress. A pint of Sierra Nevada IPA is going down well and a house special burger is on the way. The four TV screens, each showing a different channel make the solo widescreen in Bampton pubs look a bit tame but apart from that, this is a pretty authentic US take on the pub theme. Very warm and welcoming.

Saw a great film late this afternoon: Marti, el ojo del canario, directed by Fernando Perez. As the LASA programme says:

'The formative years of Cuban national hero Jose Marti are explored in a historical epic set during the 1890s in colonial Havana. The film follows "El Apostol" from the age of nine to seventeen, as he experiences firsthand the often brutal inequalities of Spanish colonial rule, feels the fire of injustice rise within him, and navigates personal conflict with his Spanish father.'

The film was compelling from a historical point of view but also from the point of view of its portrayal of conflicts within a family. You could really understand Marti's determination to affirm his Cuban identity but equally you sympathised with the plight of his father and mother as their family got dragged into the terrifying consequences of their son's political activism.

Meanwhile, a great panel earlier examined the fascinating economic changes going on in contemporary Cuba: What does the future hold for Cuba?: the Lineamientos, guidelines for economic change in Cuba, (approved, April 18, 2011) and Cuba's VI congress. Lots of info and food for thought during this panel discussion, some of it contradictory. Check out an intriguing blog, written by one of the speakers: thecubabug.blogspot.com.

Can't quite believe how fast my time in SF is passing.

Pic btw if City Hall, just up the road from where I am staying.
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Thursday 24 May 2012

two interiors, stanford, lasa launch

Met fellow SALALM (US Latin American librarians association) members and caught a train to Palo Alto for a visit to Stanford.

This was a real treat, not least because I used to teach students on the Stanford in Oxford programme.

Was struck by the vast sense of space, how beautifully kept everything was--both outside and inside--and how welcome we were made to feel. Great to discuss library business and to learn how similar the challenges are on both sides of the Atlantic.

Meanwhile, back in SF, LASA XXX launched this evening. An astonishingly full programme over the next three days!
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Wednesday 23 May 2012

golden gate, alcatraz, sea lions, pacific breeze

An after work wander through Chinatown led to San Francisco Bay and Pier 39.

First glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge (75 years old this Saturday) and Alcatraz Island. Wondered what all the deep barks were, then realised it was the sea lions! A friend had mentioned these but I'd forgotten exactly where they were. As I stared at the Golden Gate they were behind me, basking and occasionally squabbling on huge wooden pontoons.

Great to see them--and great to spend some time by the sea for a bit. Refreshing breeze. Searing light, though, off the water--glad I brought my shades.
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Tuesday 22 May 2012

san francisco

Well, got to San Francisco. Still a bit jet lagged, though not too much.

Great flight over, made all the more fun by lovely person, Tonia, I sat next to. Being able to chat the flight away was great--in between typing library work into my mobile. Also watched The Iron Lady. Astonishing performance from Meryl Streep, it goes without saying, although it was weird seeing the set pieces like the rubbish piling up in the streets in the late seventies, the footage of the Falklands' War and the Poll Tax riots. Flying tends to prompt me to look back over my life in any case and this time I had the panorama of those crucial decades' news reports rolling by too.

Beginning to work out where things are in the centre of town, hopefully, and looking forward to meeting cousin Nathan at 6 this evening.

Enjoying poached egg and sausage breakfast just now--very spicy and herby sausage btw. Then I'll get down to some more library work and online teaching.

Sunny here, though a colleague has emailed to say it's 25C in Oxford. Don't think it's that here...
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Sunday 20 May 2012

freezing may, bluebells, sf, flying crows, golden gate, wierd

Good to get out into the countryside on the bike this morning, even though it was freezing. Where did our summer go?

Still, much beauty to be seen this week--including the May blossom on the Oxford Canal and the bluebells on the verge of the Black Bourton road, above.

Feel a bit weird about going to San Francisco tomorrow for the LASA congress. I've only moved about 20 miles along the Thames Valley over the last 30 or so years, as the crow flies, and haven't been abroad much in that time, apart from Scotland and Ireland, so this impending long flight seems a bit strange.

Still I've been reading about the place and was particularly interested in the Independent article that my boss Ruth sent me the link to yesterday--I'll be in SF for the Golden Gate 75th celebrations, it seems, next Saturday.

Also looking forward to meeting my cousin Nathan on Tuesday over there.

I guess the next time I post will be from the west coast of the States. How odd.

Thursday 17 May 2012

wolvercote green, wio, reviewing the past, john wain, waterman's arms

This was the view across Wolvercote Green from the entrance to the Plough on Tuesday night.

I'd gone there to attend the Writers in Oxford (WiO) AGM--the first I'd been to since standing down as chair in 2010.

It was lovely to see old friends, catch up on what the society is doing and chat about writing and this and that. The evening brought back memories and added to the sense I have at the moment of reviewing the past, somehow. Not sure why I am doing it--I can't help it, I guess--but I am aware that this is what is happening.

Oxford is in any case so full of overlapping memories and connections. John Wain, the novelist and Oxford Professor of Poetry, lived on Wolvercote Green for many years and he regularly used to walk down the canal that runs past the village to the Thames and on to Osney, where he would drink at one of his favourite pubs, The Waterman's Arms (now, the Punter...though the water running by is really too deep for punting). The pub features in my novel The Lock (as the Narrow Boat) and was one of the key settings in John Wain's wonderful Where the Rivers Meet trilogy. It was John's son Will who published The Lock under his Smaller Sky Books imprint in 2001 (ebook) and 2003 (paperback). Memories, connections...

Saturday 12 May 2012

moaty thing, awash, lasa, swan at radcot, robert gibbings

Loved seeing the sun today--and feeling its warmth.

Great cycle ride early-ish this morning. A lot of water lying on the meadows down by the Thames. The weird moaty thing near Tadpole Bridge that I said back on 6th April was drying out like never before is suddenly awash. The water is also out on the Great Brook lane. Not quite as deep as it was a few years ago during the floods but I wouldn't expect to see water there at all at this time of year. (The water-level during the floods was too high to cycle through, though I did try--and got very wet feet!)

Busy week, as always, just now. Rewarding, though. Next week there's a lot going on too, including preparations for my trip to San Francisco and the LASA conference.

Meanwhile, hoping to be able to fork through more ground on the allotment tomorrow.

Had a drink at the Swan at Radcot Bridge earlier and caught sight of our friends with the narrowboat on the opposite bank. They still can't move on to Oxford because the currents are too dangerous. Had good fun catching up over a pint.

Talked in part about Robert Gibbings and his books, Sweet Thames Run Softly and Till I End My Song. About his anecdotes about the Thames hereabouts in the thirties and his wonderful woodcuts done for his Golden Cockerel Press.

Monday 7 May 2012

bank holiday walk, new bridge, thunder, downpours, hophead, suits, back to work

We went on a great walk this morning. There was no chance of any allotmenting, so headed for the green lanes and the water meadows by the Thames.

We're lucky round us because styles and bridges are well kept. Don't know who's built this new bridge over the Sharney Brook, just to the north of the fields where the curlew nest, but it's much appreciated. Farmer or council?

Later, after some pretty spectacular thunderstorms and downpours, we headed for the Bell at Standlake for a pint of Dark Star Hophead. Back home, lazed in front of the fire.

Before the pub, spent a little time putting away Dad's suits and overcoats, which have come back from the dry cleaners. Bit sad.

Back to work tomorrow.

Sunday 6 May 2012

kind weather, spuds, edzell blues, highland burgundy reds, dibber, shallots and onions

Weather has been kind the past couple of days, so I was at last able to get onto the allotment and plant the spuds.

I prepared the ground when I had a week off after Easter but have had to wait three weeks for a break in the rain to coincide with some time off.

Spuds have gone in much later than usual. In 2010 planting started on 11th April and last year I put in the lot on 9th April... But, as Keith said this morning, 'They'll catch up.' Hope so.

The varieties this year are Desiree, Estima, Kestrel and Maris Peer. I also put in a row each of Edzell Blue and Highland Burgundy Red, which we haven't grown for years. When we stayed in Comrie back in the 90s we used to visit Mrs MacLean and order a selection of unusual varieties which would arrive by post in the spring. She grew well over a hundred different kinds.

The Edzell Blues are the nearest ones in the bottom photo and the Highland Burgundy Reds, the ones at the back.

The wonderful old potato dibber had its annual outing.

Also managed to get in our shallots (Red Sun) and onions (Sturon and Stuttgarter)--again very late.

frozen, signs of spring, clematis, green alcanet etc, family biz!?

Last Saturday, drenched. This one, frozen. What's going on!?

Good cycle ride, though, once I got going. Signs of spring, even if it felt like the middle of winter. Loved the clematis and green alcanet by the above garden wall by Kencot and the cowslips and red dead nettle along Calcroft Lane (aka the gated road--the one without the gates).

Busy week--whenever isn't it? But a satisfying one. Felt I'd got some things done in the end.

Must say the essay I wrote about the sad family biz has been a 'good thing'--has helped to put a lot of things into perspective and has been pretty therapeutic. Looking back at what happened systematically, you think how the hell did everybody get taken in? There's a study in group dynamics there--that should keep a researcher or two going for years!

Pleased to have a couple of days off for the bank holiday. Feel I need it.

Tuesday 1 May 2012

swan at radcot, cold ipa, spice, narrowboat, morris, red house

Met friends at the Swan at Radcot this evening. A great pint of Green King IPA, chilled smoothflow version--'great' to my great surprise (not something I would try usually). Actually thought it tasted better than the ordinary. GK IPA's got a full enough flavour to withstand the cold--in fact the chilling seems to bring out its spiciness. Loved the new-look bar at the Swan too--though it's been like it for about a year, so they said.

Afterwards we visited our friends' narrowboat, which isn't going anywhere just now because of the high water level. Wonderful, standing in the boat and staring out at the river which, because of the perspective, seems almost at the windowsill. As we left, the mist was rising on the meadows.

A better end to the day, as far as the weather was concerned. This morning it was odd seeing the Morris dancers in front of St John's--and later in the Ashmolean courtyard (the first time the dancing has happened there, it seems)--in the pouring rain. Well done them for their perseverance.

Really enjoyed listening to the Mark Haddon interview on Radio 4's Front Row this evening--he was talking about his new novel The Red House, which is due out later this month.