Sunday, 29 September 2013

digging

















A busier day than expected. Though I did manage to put work aside for a while and start the autumn digging on the allotment. Therapeutic.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

mst residence, allotment, memories, autumn



















It's the MSt residence this weekend. Looking forward to meeting the students I'll be supervising over the coming year. We've spoken and they've sent work for me to read but we've not met.

Went up to the allotment just now and harvested what must be nearly the last lot of runner beans, courgettes and cucumbers. In Bampton and in the countryside, rather a beautiful autumn is beginning.

Yesterday was a sad day because a friend has died, the landlord of our local.  He died while we were away. Going to the pub last night, at first I thought all the cards and flowers were for a birthday or some other celebration. What had happened was so sudden and it was hard to take in.

I remember that not long after we moved to the village, we were talking to him and I said I'd just had a novel published. He asked if I had any spare copies and I delivered a dozen which he displayed in the pub, selling all of them.

It was sometime later that I met another friend when out walking. He told me that his wife liked reading fiction and had bought my book at the pub. He said he didn't tend to read novels but his wife had suggested he read mine. He finished by saying that he must have enjoyed it because when he got to the end, he read it again. He said nothing more about the book and we've never talked about it since. But what more could a writer want.

Thanks for these and other memories, Alan.

Revised 29.09.13

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

three horseshoes, batcombe

















Lovely days away, staying at the Three Horseshoes at Batcombe, Somerset. (See Telegraph article.) Great to be walking valleys - a contrast to the flatlands at home.

Also, wonderful to be staying at a pub we first stayed at in 1986, when it was a bikers' pub. A little different now - more up market, it has to be said, but still a local with terrific food and fantastic beers and ciders, including the Wild Beer brews.

Many of the walks through the countryside hereabouts are like stepping back in time.
--
Visit
http://frankegerton.com (website)
http://justthoughtsnstuff.com (blog)

A Conscious Englishman by Magaret Keeping - StreetBooks Kindle edition published 16.08.13 - visit http://www.streetbooks.co.uk for details

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Saturday, 21 September 2013

misty morning, mount owen, cucumbers and runner beans, oudce open day, a conscious englishman


















Although it's my birthday, I was up early because there's work to finish before any celebrations can begin.

A slightly misty start to the morning, which softened the views when I was cycling. I did the Mount Owen route but going in the other direction, starting with Mount Owen and ending up at the allotment. I realised I'd never done this route like this before--in fact I don't remember cycling up Mount Owen from Bampton since 2001. It's a much longer slope going this way and I was quite surprised by how demanding it was. It was extraordinary to see the countryside from this direction--familiar places looked like they were in another part of England altogether.

On the allotment, I harvested a couple of cucumbers, one green, one crystal lemon (round, yellow) and masses of runner beans (which have been amazing this summer). The courgettes have pretty much stopped on the allotment, although they are still going strong at the house, with its sheltered lighter land.

Meanwhile, looking forward to the Oxford Department for Continuing Education Open Day on Thursday--in particular, the authors event, which features Margaret Keeping reading from A Conscious Englishman. (I notice that there have been one or two returns for both this event and mine in the last 24 hours--and indeed other events that were fully booked--so places are available again now. There are some excellent events in prospect!)

Sunday, 15 September 2013

onions

















Sorted out the onions today. I harvested these a couple of weeks back and they've been drying on a tray in the shed. This morning, I pulled the stalks off and tidied the bulbs before bringing them back to the house for netting. They and the spuds lifted yesterday are now hanging from the rafters in the outhouse.

This year we grew three varieties of onion: Setton, Sturon and Stuttgarter--all mixed together in the bucket above.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

five alls, lifting spuds, gosford park, dog better, first log fire of autumn





















Lovely short break at the beginning of the week. Very much enjoyed having lunch at the Five Alls at Filkins, a neighbouring village, on Tuesday.

The return to work was, of course, busy--but fulfilling.

Today I lifted our spuds on the allotment. They have done amazingly well--not least because they were planted SO late (27th May). There were three varieties, starting from the top: Kestrel, Estima and Desiree (also shown bagged up). The haulms of the last of these were still strong and growing and I wondered if I should leave them for a few weeks. I decided to crop them because time will be precious over the coming month and if the weather is against me I will struggle to get them harvested and the plot dug for autumn. In any case, there were more than enough potatoes for us over the winter today.

During the week, we finished watching the excellent Gosford Park. A proto-Downton, perhaps, being penned by Julian Fellowes, but a tremendous script all the same, with wonderful, subtle direction (and social observation) from the director Robert Altman.

I'm pleased to say that our dog is much, much better after losing his footing, spring down the stairs and spraining his ankle (if dogs have ankles, that is). He's such a brave little dog.

Today, the first log fire of autumn is burning in the grate.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

trap grounds, graffiti, bedroom window, serge doubrovsky, autofiction, hero of herat, cuba





















I worked in Oxford yesterday and beforehand diverted to the Trap Grounds nature reserve while walking along the Oxford Canal (last visited on 13th July). Signs of autumn, with brown and orange-coloured leaves strewn on the walkways and spiders' webs in the trees and strung between the stems of plants. Grasses and reeds seeding.

Further down the canal I came across a footbridge stantion painted with graffiti.

Today, I finished brushing the last coat of gloss onto our front bedroom window. Painting this has been one of my holiday projects. It's been quite tricky, what with having to use a different undercoat for each of the two colours, dark blue and bright white, and lots of masking. This was the one window we didn't paint a couple of years ago and it needed doing, although the hardwood frames--over a hundred years old--seem as tough as iron.

My other holiday project--done during the first stage of the break, the week before this one--was re-felting a pitch of the allotment shed roof. Again, finishing off something started a couple of years ago. A fun, satisfying thing to do, if a little over-designed to the professional, I dare say.

Last week, I spent time researching Serge Doubrovsky on the bus to and from work. He is a French novelist who coined the term 'autofiction'. I'm interested in looking at the different ways that authors have approached the fictionalisation of biographical events because I want to write about what has happened to me in recent years. I don't, however, think I would like to have a fictional Frank Egerton and create fictional versions of family members, as Doubrovsky does, but would prefer to distil human truths from my experiences and develop imagined scenarios from those. We'll see.

Midweek, a friend sent me a scan of a book chapter about Eldred Pottinger, one of my ancestors, known as the Hero of Herat. Fascinating to read about his exploits--and indeed about his uncle, the first governor of Hong Kong, and his cousin, Frederick who ended up in Australia. (I'm looking forward to visiting cousins descended from Frederick in Canberra soon).

Lastly, there's a good article on free-enterprise reforms in Cuba in the Sunday Times today--for those with access beyond the paywall.