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.

Saturday 8 February 2014

breezy, 2007, ditch clearing, assignments, windows 8, (deer and kite), kerry young, open country, adlestrop, wychwood forest

It's been a breezy week - with lots of rain, of course.

Thankfully, the village seems safe from flooding. After over two hundred homes flooded here in 2007 a massive programme of ditch clearing and (I assume) stream and river dredging started, which appears to have worked. Water levels rise rapidly when rain is especially heavy but fall quickly too and have so far not reached houses.

More assignment marking this weekend - though for a different course.

This time the assignments have to be marked digitally. It'll be interesting to put Windows 8's Word through its paces. The old laptop gave out a couple of weeks ago and a new one had to be bought. Windows 8 has taken a bit of getting used to but is on the way to becoming second nature now. I love the way you can flick through photos using the desktop pictures app, especially (the laptop's got a touch-screen).

This morning started with a short bike ride and continued with a haircut then a log delivery (very dry, sound wood). Took the photo above just outside Clanfield, one of the neighbouring villages (also very badly affected by flooding in 2007). What the phone camera didn't detect, sadly, were a small herd of deer in the far distance (left-hand side) and a red kite flying directly overhead.

Attended a very energetic and entertaining talk and reading at the Kellogg College Centre for Creative Writing on Thursday evening given by Kerry Young, who was discussing voice in fiction. Her highly successful novels Pao and Gloria (published by Bloomsbury) are written in the Jamaican dialect of her childhood (she left the island when she was ten). She said that she wrote the first of these in standard English to begin with - several drafts were written like this - before the narrative voice came to her when she was revisiting Jamaica. Suddenly she could see how to tell her story in an interesting way. The voice, she said in answer to a question at the end of the talk, came partly from that of her father (who she had lost contact with when she left Jamaica) but also drew on other memories. It was in any case, she added, a simplified Jamaican voice because to write the dialect straight would make it hard for non-Jamaican readers to understand. She also said that the voice was the key to the success of the novels. She made the discovery of the voice and the subsequent flow of the rewriting sound almost mystical experiences. (Something I can readily understand - as I'm sure other writers can too). She had drawn on her father when developing her central character in Pao but she said that the character was nevertheless not her father - he had provided the historical facts which she had then got to work on imaginatively. Again this way of using one's own memories in fiction was something I could relate to. A terrific evening.

Oh and I meant to recommend an amazing, wonderful, brilliant programme I heard on Radio 4 last Saturday morning - Open Country, Adlestrop - in which Helen Mark visited the place where Edward Thomas' poem was set before she explored the north Cotswold countryside nearby. I was particularly intrigued to learn about the fate of the ancient Royal Wychwood Forest that I had always assumed had been destroyed piecemeal over centuries but which was cleared substantially by the Victorians. Apparently there was quite a bit of controversy about the land improvements that led to the felling of the trees at the time. One of the best remnants of the forest can be found in Blenheim park, I believe (or at least that is what I was told years ago).

Now, work.

1 comment:

  1. Oh bother and damn - I was meaning to go to Kerry Young's talk without fail - why am I so forgetful....I knew her a hundred years ago -well, late 70's, when she was a detached youth worker in the City. An unimaginable post these days I fear. They were all real characters but Kerry most of all - her parties were something else!
    Perhaps the department could make use of her again? Does she live in Oxford? I remember she moved away to Leicester I think.