Wednesday, 27 August 2014

straw stacks, cold, too autumnal?, donnington gold, fox inn, great barrington

















Out early on the bike because I was catching up on some work today.

Sun was out when I took the photo above of stacks of straw beside Calcroft Lane but now it's gone indoors and it's grey and cold in west Oxfordshire.

Seriously tempted to light a fire but resisting this. It would be too autumnal, wouldn't it?

Lovely walk yesterday around the Barrington Park Estate before stopping at the Fox at Great Barrington for a delicious pint of Donnington Gold. I remember coming across the Donnington brewery in its little Cotswold valley in the late 70s when I was a land agent and thinking how beautiful it was. Such a romantic setting. The firm I worked for used to look after some land owned by the brewery's proprietor.

Shame to have missed FoxStock 2014 by a day, though. Didn't realise it was on.

Monday, 25 August 2014

rain, teasel, marking, relaxing

















Rain, rain, rain.

Another soggy Bampton bank holiday - the Whitsun Morris dancing bank holiday was also cold and wet.

‎No butterflies seen when I was dog-walking, though the purple of this teasel seemed to be almost enhanced by the greyness of the day.

Marking assignments this morning and the first half of this afternoon.‎ Relaxing now.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

working sunday, spaces, dog-walking, small tortoiseshell and scabious

















Partly, a working Sunday. Lots of spaces to relax in, though.

Lovely time walking T the terrier earlier - saw this small tortoiseshell on a scabious flower when we were almost back at the village.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

time off, busy, sowing, walking, godstow, binsey, guard against depression, good handle, binsey




















Taking some time off because the library closes during the last week in August‎ - though not as much time off as I should take, perhaps. There's marking to do and I want to catch up on one or two library matters. Working from home, however, with space to think, will be quite fun, I suspect.

Spent an hour on the allotment earlier, harvesting courgettes and runners and planting Black Spanish Round winter radishes, a little more rhubarb chard and some miner's lettuce and Pak Choi.

The sun was warm, the light pale but intensely sharp and the wind steady and stronger than I'd expected. Poor runners are taking a battering.

Read an article in the Times on walking and how much good it does you. For example:

‎'As well as the physical benefits, walking can improve thinking skills and boost creativity. Stanford University psychologists asked volunteers to walk on a treadmill in a room that contained nothing except a desk. Before and during the exercise they completed tests of creativity. In almost every case, their creativity increased by about 60 per cent.'

Walking also helps you cope with stress and wards off depression, I would add. In fact, I was thinking about these effects yesterday morning, when I walked from Godstow to Binsey, across Port Meadow and on to work (photos of Godstow Abbey and the Thames path near Binsey above).

This is a walk I can only do before work in August when there's little traffic on the A40 and the bus gets to the outskirts of Oxford well before 8 am.

‎It's also a walk I've been doing from time to time since 1982. It was a walk I did again and again when I was working as a land agent and studying hard in the evenings in order to try for Oxford. A time when I was excited by what I was learning but also one when I was still haunted by much that had happened in my childhood and was struggling to make sense of it.

Yet the act of walking was as therapeutic as it was an activity that seemed to encourage contemplation. I think the exercise was a kind of self-medication. A forum for thinking through difficult memories that had an inbuilt guard against depression, maybe, because the beauty of the walk would steam into my consciousness and lift my spirits, no matter how hard the subject I was thinking about.

There is, of course, irony in the fact that I am walking this way again, still, thirty years later, making sense of the events from childhood that fed into the relentless stream of events that haunted my adult life, making so little sense, till everything was exposed in 2010.

There is also an echo here of comments I made about the therapeutic value of walking in the precursor to this blog in 2009 - see Landscapes http://www.frankegerton.com/scrapbook.html.

Still, I'm happy to say that yesterday I enjoyed the walk and felt that I had a good handle on the past.

There are also such good associations whe‎n walking past the poplars near Binsey. For my Oxbridge exam I had to write a critical appreciation of Gerard Manley Hopkins' poem Binsey Poplars. Years later I was married in Binsey church.

Meantime, I loved seeing the straw in the harvested cornfields when cycling earlier.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

end of summer school dinner, great assignments, working towards closed week, onions and shallots, autumnal, first pink fir apples


















‎Summer school ended this week.

Lovely dinner at Exeter College high table on Friday night, followed by the presentation of the certificates to the students.

Really enjoyed catching up with colleagues that evening, as well as seeing the students. A terrific group this year. It was a pleasure to read their assignments.

The week after next is closed week at the library, which I'm looking forward to. Busy times preparing for this, though - so often the case that you have to work extra hard to take time off.

Spent a couple of hours on the allotment this afternoon. A strong wind up there but warm too. Lifted the onions and shallots and put them in the shed to dry. Then dug over the ground, creating a decidedly autumnal patch (a similarly autumnal scene above photographed while dog-walking through the harvested fields this morning). Also planted some ‎winter carrots and fed the runners and courgettes.

A treat was digging the first pink fir apples. For lunch, I boiled some for a quarter-of-an-hour before roasting them for twenty-five minutes in rapeseed oil, finely-chopped lightly-fried onions and basil‎ and the tiniest crunch of sea salt. Deliciously nutty (oniony and basily).

(Saw the heron above btw on the Oxford canal last week. He was standing beside a narrowboat that had stained-glass windows of kingfishers. Seemed appropriate somehow.)

Saturday, 9 August 2014

brighter, rain, travellers' encampment, thick mist, summer school


















A brighter morning, after moderately heavy rain last evening and in the night.

Saw the travellers' encampment at Cowleaze Corner when cycling earlier. The corner was, I have always imagined, a piece of common land where cattle were pastured before being to taken to Bampton market in the nineteenth century. Though whether I'm being fanciful, I don't know! To me, anyway, the scene seems fitting and somewhat timeless. Also appropriate for a village that has a pub named The Romany - its sign showing a brightly-painted gypsy caravan.

Yesterday morning there was a thick mist to start with, though it cleared quickly once the sun was up. The top photo shows the sun rising over French beans and sweet peas, and a long strand of spider-web (if you look closely).

A tiring but a fulfilling week. Very much enjoying working with the summer school students. Today will be spent going through creative pieces submitted for the workshopping exercises next week and preparing for the seminars.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

thatching barley, heavy showers, first world war, edward thomas, a conscious englishman, robert macfarlane, summer school, jtns pdf


















Saw the bound sheaf of thatching barley (top photo) near Bampton when walking our dog on Monday.

The thatcher grows long-straw wheat and barley on three fields in the valley each year and harvests the crop with an old reaper and binder. The sheaves are gathered into stooks by hand and left to dry. Hopefully he has carted the dry stooks in by now as today there are heavy showers. The bottom photo was taken early this morning and shows a cloudy sky over a field of ordinary, short-strawed wheat (the spire of Bampton church is just visible beyond the trees, right of centre).

It was a difficult year for the thatcher because the floods in the winter and spring destroyed large patches of the crop - some 50% must have been lost across all three fields.

With the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War this week in mind, The First World War Poetry Digital Archive is salutary and poignant place to visit, containing images of manuscript poems and other documents, as well as some 6,500 items of memorabilia donated by members of the public in 2008.

Included in the documents archive is the War Diary of Edward Thomas.

Naturally, I would also commend Margaret Keeping's wonderful fictionalised account of the last four years of Thomas's life, A Conscious Englishman. StreetBooks published the corrected reprint in May. Included on the cover and flyleaf are quotations from the many reviews and praising comments on the novel. Not the least is this lovely, generous quote from Robert Macfarlane: '[Margaret Keeping's] inhabitation of Edward, Robert, Helen and their world is tender and subtle...A lovely novel.'

I'm delighted to say that Margaret will be reading from her book at the Woodstock Bookshop on Monday 6th October - more on this event nearer the time.

The novel is, of course, available from the StreetBooks website and on Amazon and other online retailers.

It goes without saying, perhaps, that this has been a busy week, what with the launch of the Creative Writing Summer School at Exeter College. My course is entitled Developing as a Creative Writer and I have loved working with my group of students.

Lastly, I've just updated the PDF edition of this blog, which is available (for Acrobat versions 9 and above) from the jtns page of my website. The edition now runs from 20th February 2010 to last week's post and contains nearly 400 posts and 100s of photos.