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 28 July 2013

rain, first spuds, great brook, brandy bottle lilies

Heavy rain yesterday evening meant there was little I could do on the allotment this morning, although I did lift our first spuds. The variety is Estima and while the potatoes are quite small there were a lot of them on each root. Given how late the spuds were planted this year, I was really pleased.

Afterwards, I went cycling. I've not been along the Great Brook, which parallels the Thames and flows into it at Shifford Lock, for some time because I've tended to work on the allotment then do the Mount Owen route. So it was great to see what's been happening in this part of the countryside. The stream is full of brandy bottle lily pads and flowers--like the ones in the photos, which I saw opposite the thatcher's reed bed.

Saturday 27 July 2013

allotment, autumn king, first runners, summer school, narrow stone-walled winds, magic of sunlight

Up on the allotment early. Tidied up the couch paths with the grass hook then weeded and hoed. Fortunately, the hot weather has meant that grass and weeds have grown slowly, so everything is manageable. I also sowed some Autumn King carrots (late, of course, but not much later, proportionately, than any of the other plantings this year) before feeding and watering.

Brought back the first handful of runner beans and masses of courgettes (Italian and green and yellow round).

It's been great to meet the two summer school groups I'm working with at Exeter College. Though it was so hot and humid in Oxford this week. Everyone did very well to keep going! The welcome dinner last Sunday was fun too--great to catch up with colleagues on high table. Pleased that we were let off wearing academic gowns this year because it was so stifling.

Came across these shining leaves in one of the narrow stone-walled winds, or lanes, that run between gardens to the north of us here in Bampton (maple or sycamore?). Not sure that the photo quite does justice to the magical effect of the light through the green, though!

Saturday 20 July 2013

30c, more wiltshire pics, sublime, developing as a creative writer, opera next 16

Wow, what a week! Temperatures over 30C--and it may be even hotter next week.

Some more pics from the Wiltshire excursion above. First three taken on the Fonthill/Beckford Arms afternoon and the next two taken when we walked to the estimable Howard's House Hotel the following day.

The bottom photo shows the moon south of Lower Chicksgrove. One of the things I love about staying at the Compasses is taking our dog for a walk through the hamlet and out into the countryside after supper. It's so quiet in this part of Wiltshire and the trees and fields seen in the fading light are sublime.

Meanwhile, it's been back to work since Thursday. Amongst other things, preparing for the Developing as a Creative Writer Summer School at Exeter College, Oxford, that starts tomorrow.  Looking forward to meeting the students.

Btw Opera Next is now available in build 16. Some improvements--sharper display, it seems to me, faster page-loading and proper functioning of web-media such as iPlayer, amongst other things. I'm sticking with the browser.

Wednesday 17 July 2013

compasses lower chicksgrove, beckford arms, oats wheat and barley, peaceful wiltshire

Spent three excellent days staying at the Compasses, Lower Chicksgrove, in deepest Wiltshire. With its flagstoned floor and timbered, cool dark interior, it's a timeless place. The food this year was the best ever.

Lovely walk on Monday to the Beckford Arms at Fonthill. Photos of oats, wheat and barley seen along the way above. Also, in the barley pic, is a strip of a yellow-flowered crop that isn't oilseed rape. Mustard? Whatever it was, it seemed planted as game cover rather than for harvesting.

This part of Wiltshire is incredibly peaceful and reviving.
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Saturday 13 July 2013

trap grounds, lord of the flies, marking done, free-ish week, summer school, exeter college

Strayed off the Oxford canal towpath this morning and explored part of the Trap Grounds site, about half a mile north of the city centre.

I've passed the site countless times over the years and used to walk part of it from the Port Meadow side when we lived on Osney Island.

I had no idea that the canal part was such a wonderful place, though! It's made up of reed beds and woodland, with raised walkways, a hide and play areas that look like something out of Lord of the Flies.

Why was I in Oxford on a Saturday? Work, of course--but come 4 pm, I've a few days off. Can't wait. Meanwhile, the marking is done (for now) and there's a relatively free week ahead before the summer school at Exeter College starts. Yay!

Monday 8 July 2013

day off, heatwave, andy murray, dancing tadpoles, blue and white crops, proper summer

Lovely walk through the fields to the south of Bampton earlier. Day off today.

Amazing heatwave in the UK at the moment that's set to last for the rest of July, if the forecasts are to be believed.

Sitting at the top of the garden in the blazing sun yesterday was a great way to listen to Wimbledon and to hear the moment when Andy Murray became champion! I swear the tadpoles in our pond were dancing.

A couple of interesting crops in the photos above--both taken this morning in the Thames Valley near what used to be RAF Bampton Castle. The blue crop is linseed and the white one is some sort of mix that's planted to provide game cover. There are quite a few fields of linseed in the valley this year because the spring floods meant that there was no chance to get the corn planted and presumably linseed can be sown fairly late in the year and still ripen in good time.

Great to have a proper summer! It hasn't been like this since the end of May last year, when I was in San Francisco (colleagues enjoyed telling me that it was way hotter in the UK!).
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Saturday 6 July 2013

allotment, ugdip readings, wingspan by jeremy hughes, moocs, oers, opera next, mount owen, ps no-see-ums

Up to the allotment early today to finish digging some rough ground that I didn't get the chance to clean earlier in the year. Things are moving now and some of the potato plants are in flower. (Meanwhile, this weekend, we'll be having the first of J's mangetouts and spinach, which she's been growing at the house).

Went to the final year celebration evening for the undergraduate diploma students midweek. Loved hearing the readings. Also, I enjoyed meeting one of my colleagues who I'd not had a chance to chat to before. His second novel is due out from Cillian Press in September: Wingspan by Jeremy Hughes.

Interesting Radio 4 programme about MOOCs and other digital teaching initiatives just now. MOOCs are Massive Open Online Courses and I have to say, speaking as an Oxford online tutor for the last five years, they sound fascinating. Opening up learning is one of the main inspirations behind online courses and, indeed, behind the Open Education Resources (OER) project I took part in last year for the Department of Continuing Education.

At the beginning of the week, I decided to try out the Opera 12 web browser, having grown a bit bored with Chrome and Firefox. No sooner had I done so, however, than there was suddenly a radically new Opera available--Opera 15, which is based on the Chromium open-source software that powers Google's browser, although the Norwegian one has a very different feel. (I chose to download the slightly more experimental version of the browser, Opera Next.) Personally I like the absence of all but the address bar and the page tabs. For settings and options, there's just one button to press that produces a drop-down menu; while commands, such as print, are available by right clicking on web pages. I'm also quite into the way the browser handles bookmarks--a single page to which you add screenshot icons for each bookmarked website. The browser is pretty stripped down at present, though a rapid roll out of features is promised. I'm going to stick with the browser and see how it devlops.

Cycled home from the allotment the long way round, out to Lew and back over Mount Owen--pictures above.

PS (an hour or so after the original posting): as I think I've mentioned, I subscribe to the Oxford English Dictionary Word of the day service (see OED site, right-hand side), which means the complete definition and quoted examples of a particular word are emailed to you each day. It's fun. Today's word was 'no-see-um', a indigenous American coinage for 'any of several minute, bloodsucking flies, esp. biting midges'. Love this word! I think I got bitten by several no-see-ums on the allotment earlier!