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 27 September 2014

big bales, lots happening, mst, margaret keeping, woodstock bookshop, a conscious englishman, squashes, digging, drought, toms

Back at work last Thursday. Lots happening as the beginning of the Oxford academic kicks off.

This weekend the Master of Studies (MSt) in Creative Writing residence begins and I shall meet the students I'll be supervising during 2014/15 for the first time - although we have been corresponding by email and talking on Skype for a couple of months. An exciting few days.

The first meeting is at 8 am tomorrow, after which I'll be having coffee with Margaret Keeping and preparing for the event at the Woodstock Bookshop (Monday 6th October, 7 pm), at which I shall interview her about her acclaimed novel A Conscious Englishman.

Later today, I'll be harvesting the squashes on the allotment and storing them in the shed. Then I'll grub up both these plants and those of the courgettes and dig over their ground.

The land is dry. We've hardly had a drop of rain for over a fortnight and there's no sign of any next week.

At the house we have a tomato glut. Glorious. When I got back from cycling earlier, it was wonderful to eat some before breakfast. Their flavour is so sharp, intense and refreshing.

Wednesday 24 September 2014

batcombe, three horseshoes, dodgy mobile signal, fearsome rabbits

‎Stayed at the Three Horseshoes, Batcombe - lovely food and atmosphere.

Great way to celebrate my birthday. Amazing walks. Amazing sunshine.

Quite difficult to get a mobile signal, though - bottom photo.

Didn't see any fearsome rabbits.

Friday 19 September 2014

finished, unexpected places, surprising conclusions, energy and thought, set-aside, exhilaration and exhaustion, ripening tomatoes

Finished the life-writing narrative. In the end it was 25,000 words - written on my Blackberry on the bus to and from work and over a couple of hours last Saturday. The writing of it took me to places I hadn't expected to go and led to some insights and conclusions that surprised me. It was a good way of getting things straight. It has also been very therapeutic. An outpouring of energy and thought.

I shall now take the advice I give to students and set it aside - while I get on with teaching and marking - before coming back to it in a few months' time. Then the work of editing and rewriting will begin. Then I shall start shaping it and the two earlier narratives, together with blog posts, photos and documents, into a coherent and, I hope, satisfying work of life-writing. The whole will be around 70,000 words.

Meanwhile, it has been an exhilarating but exhausting week all round.

The tomatoes continue to ripen.

Saturday 13 September 2014

blight, green tomatoes, drawer, spuds, shallots and onions, life-writing

We stopped growing tomatoes some years ago because blight is bad in this area. But a neighbour gave us some plants in the early summer.

Sure enough they succumbed to blight a week or so ago but J spotted this early and picked all the tomatoes. We then cleared a drawer and put the fruit inside - see photo above.

We used to do this years ago, when we lived on Osney and had an allotment greenhouse. The plants would usually get blight but later on in the season and by then the fruits were big. The blight seems to be passed to the fruits by the plant and not from fruit to fruit, so that if you're quick, only a small proportion turn bad, the rest ripening gradually. Some people put an apple in with the fruit to accelerate ripening. The only thing to watch out for is infected fruits turning.

Harvested the spuds on the allotment on Tuesday and have been digging the area in the evenings since then. I grew four varieties - Dersiree, Estima, Kestrel and Pink Fir Apple. I generally plant a lot of rows because I don't tend to have time to water the plants and so yields are low. This year and last, though, the crop has been heavy - this year's especially so. The spuds are now bagged in hessian sacks, which I hang from the rafters in the old piggery, so that they are out of reach of the mice.

I'll go up to the allotment later to do a bit more digging and bag up the shallots and onions, which have been drying in the shed for several weeks since I lifted them.

I've continued to write the life-writing narrative I mentioned last week. It's now over 15,000 words and there is still quite a lot more to say. I'd not realised how much there was to say. Writing this out is my way of coming to terms with the past. Perhaps that should read, a staging post on the way to coming to terms with the past. It's very healing, whatever stage I'm at, however.

Saturday 6 September 2014

working saturday, godstow walk, guitar, life-writing, visualising fiction, dh

Working at the library today before a few days off when the building closes for St Giles' Fair.

Got to Oxford early so I did the wonderful Godstow Abbey-Binsey walk. A calming herald-of-autumn haze over the Thames and Port Meadow.

Took these photos of the abbey from inside its precincts‎ and of an overturned guitar in the stream below Fiddler's Island.

On the bus in I worked on more of a new narrative about my family. This week and next are good opportunities for writing because there is a slight lull in my teaching commitments. I'd expected to work on Icarus, the novella, but in the end decided on life-writing. This instalment will extend to 15,000 words and is two-thirds done. Once it's finished I'll shape it and the other two related narratives (one a 10k extract from a 30k essay written in 1998, the other a 20k piece written after Easter 2012) into a work that combines them, other documents and other short things I've written, including jtns blog posts, and photos and scans. The aim is to produce a life-writing work in multi-media.

What I find particularly interesting is the difference in perspective - and, I think, tone of voice - between the three principal narratives.

This is life-writing but also therapy through writing.

Last Monday, meantime, I attended an inspiring talk given by Lynn ‎Cherny (@arnicas) a former researcher at Stanford and a data analyst. She spoke to the Bodleian Libraries about visualising fiction, something close to my heart.

Also pleased to report that there's quite a Digital Humanities buzz in the University just now. Exciting.

Frank Egerton

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