Sunday, 25 November 2012

flooding, tredegar, edward thomas, insecurities, visconti, clair, such a strange experience




















The rain was relentless yesterday, pouring down on ground that was already saturated.

The fields and the allotment are awash. On the latter this is a miserable end to a miserable year.

So far, though, no significant flooding of roads in our village or neighbouring ones, apart from some water flowing across the Black Bourton road in Clanfield just beyond the Plough. But only a few inches. The water was lapping over the Shill Brook on Mill Green in Bampton but hopefully this will subside soon--the water does seem to be getting away much quicker than it did during the dreadful floods of 2007 (some 200 houses were flooded then).

As I mentioned on Facebook earlier in the week, I was intrigued to find out that Edward Thomas' father was from Tredegar in the Rhondda Valley. This was where my maternal grandfather came from--also called Thomas, though no relation to the poet that I know of. When I told the author of A Conscious Englishman, Margaret Keeping, about this, she said in passing that she thought that I was 'not unlike' Thomas. Well, if I only had his gifts... But what I do relate to when reading the novel, is his insecurity and lack of confidence. I've sometimes wondered if these are traits that other descendants of people who left Wales feel. I certainly noticed this in my cousins on the Welsh side, who now live in England. In fact I wrote about these issues in The Lock. Gerald's best friend, Jonathan (a Welshman living in Oxford), manifests just such insecurity and lack of confidence, despite being successful (and nearly all my Anglo-Welsh cousins are successful). I don't understand why being of Welsh descent living in England should produce these traits but perhaps it has something to do with feeling deracinated and not fitting in.

Having said that, in the Times' review of The Lock (for those with access beyond the paywall) there was mention of 'hearty northerners', which I think referred to Jonathan--so perhaps I didn't make it clear enough that he was Welsh, after all :-)

Meanwhile I unpacked some paperbacks yesterday that I hadn't seen since January 1978. My reading from the 1970s, including scripts of early Luchino Visconti and RenĂ© Clair films, which I must have been going through shortly before everything was put in store (regular readers of this blog will be familiar with the odd saga that is behind the unpacking of the books). Such a strange experience, seeing them again. Hard to get my head round it.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

trailer, autumn days, wio 20th, fox, snowdrops, tunes






















A mix of gloomy, leaden days, this week--like yesterday--and beautiful sunshine, like Wednesday and today. On the sunny days the autumn leaves have been glorious.

Yesterday we went to the Writers in Oxford (WiO) twentieth anniversary party, which was held in the room in Worcester College where the society was founded. It all came about when two Oxford-based writers were returning from a Society of Authors meeting in London and decided to see if there was any interest in a more local group. When they contacted fellow Oxford authors, far more than expected turned up to the inaugural meeting and WiO was born. It now has around 200 members. I edited the Oxford Writer, the society's newsletter, in the early Noughties and was chair from 2008-2010.

When we arrived at Worcester we met Brian Aldiss, who used to send me updates when I edited the newsletter, including news of the Steven Spielberg film AI, which was based on one of his stories (Super-Toys Last All Summer Long). As we wandered towards the building where the party was being held we saw first a fox, nonchalantly strolling across the lawn, and secondly, clumps of snowdrops out beneath one of the trees. A somewhat surreal experience!

It was lovely to see so many old friends. There were speeches from Brian, Philip Pullman, the current chair Denise Cullington and one of the two people who came up with the idea for a society on the train, Jenyth Worsley. (Sadly the other founder, William Horwood couldn't be at the party.) Philip remembered a memorable gathering at his house, when the whisky writer, the late Michael Jackson, gave a talk and cracked open many rare whiskies from his private collection. I remember that evening well--it was the greatest of fun.

Today, I got up early to work on A Conscious Englishman--the typesetting is nearly done. I also downloaded Daniel Merriweather's Red and Mad World by Gary Jules (loved the film in which the Tears for Fears cover featured, Donnie Darko). I bought T-Mobile versions of both tracks but they don't work on the Blackberry and I've been meaning to replace them for ages! Yesterday evening, after getting back from the party, listened to David Gray's Life in Slow Motion. Hadn't heard that for a while--still pretty great.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

autumn leaves, aa gill, edward thomas, a conscious englishman by margaret keeping, streetbooks

















A beautiful autumn day. Or should that be winter's day? Not quite winter, I think. Not least because there are still so many autumn leaves on the trees. The relentless rain seems to have been good for keeping them on, if for nothing else.

A great article on Edward Thomas by AA Gill in the Sunday Times. (Sorry that link won't work for those who don't have access beyond the News International paywall...)  I liked the following especially:

'Barely two of his poems mention the war and then only in passing. But altogether they are an almost unbearable memorial to the trenches, not as dispatches from the front or descriptions of horror, but as a departing view of what was fought for and what was lost.'

The article anticipates the play about Thomas by Nick Dear at the Almeida. Meanwhile, A Conscious Englishman by Margaret Keeping, which will be published by StreetBooks on 7th February 2013 is showing on Amazon, Blackwell, Waterstones and other major online retailers. See also, Margaret's excellent blog, Publishing my Edward Thomas.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

rain, waterlogged fields, first log delivery, brazil, in trouble again

















Rain overnight was heavy by at least 4 am and lasted till midday. Lots of waterlogged fields by the time I went cycling.

First log delivery of the winter this afternoon (we've been using up what was left of the last spring delivery till now).

Enjoying Michael Palin's Brazil on iPlayer. In episode 2, Into Amazonia, Palin visits the Yanomami, recalling Redmond O'Hanlon's adventures, recounted in In Trouble Again.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

greylags, signet, running to catch up, family (1 unkown before now), hunger

Working in Oxford today but don't have to be in until 10, which means I had time for a decent walk along the canal, across Port Meadow and down the Thames path to the city centre. (Now having regular Americano in Caffè Nero.) As always, a delight to walk the byways I loved when living on Osney Island.

Finished the last of the marking for a few weeks on Monday. Spent the rest of the week running to catch up, it seemed. Lots of things happening. Lots to prepare for.

Delicious meal at Biztro, Bampton last night. Family staying on both Thursday and Friday this week. Lovely to see H then S!

Also nice to hear from a distant cousin, RS, earlier in the week--who I knew nothing of before then.

The treat at the end of the working day will be late lunch at the Hollybush. Witney. Worth the hunger!
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