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.

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