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.

Monday 29 December 2014

cotswolds, the fox great barrington, notes from an exhibition by patrick gale

Glorious walk in the Cotswolds near Great Barrington, ending up at the Fox.

Continuing to love Notes from an Exhibition by Patrick Gale.

Sunday 28 December 2014

late breakfast, long walk cross country to clanfield, steam engine, the clanfield tavern, sandford's piece, downton series five

Lovely late breakfast of porridge followed by sausage and bacon from the local butcher.

Then a long walk via Weald, across farmland and along green lanes to Clanfield, where we saw a steam engine and had a drink in front of a roaring fire at the Clanfield Tavern. I had a pint of Ringwood Best - delicious and very refreshing for the walk back.

Returned to the village as dusk was falling. We crossed Sanford's Piece with the church silhouetted against a nightening sky on the far side.

Passed the spot where Lord Grantham and others discuss the possibility of building new houses in Downton Series Five, which we're watching this Christmas. Seeing this scene made sense of the bridge that had mysteriously appeared on Sandford's in the summer before vanishing.

Friday 26 December 2014

boxing day walk, pint at the morris

A lovely Boxing Day walk along the Thames from Buckland.

Quite a contrast to our walk in January 2013 - when the water meadows were well and truly flooded.

A quiet walk - the distant sound of a Boxing Day shoot but hardly anyone about between Buckland and Shifford Lock during the two hours we were out.

Later a pint at the Morris Clown - lovely to catch up with friends.

Thursday 25 December 2014

happy christmas!!

Happy Christmas!!

Frank Egerton

Visit http://www.justthoughtsnstuff.com

Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone

Saturday 20 December 2014

winding down, the white peacock, dh lawrence, nottingham, the squire and his descendant

Oxford is beginning to wind down.

The library will close at 5 pm on Tuesday and won't reopen till the New Year.

It's nice to have a little space in which to catch up with oneself and one's work. Moments in which one can see where one's got to and contemplate what to do next.

It's also been great to go to parties, to see old friends and have time to be with colleagues rather than us all dashing about.

On the bus into work, in between going through the last creative writing submissions of 2014, I'm reading The White Peacock by DH Lawrence. This is the third time in my life when I've read this novel. I love it. It's so beautiful - the evocations of the countryside and of the people and buildings within it. It's also fresh and vivid and full of life, with none of the somewhat deranged tub-thumping and one-pacedness of later Lawrence.

I first read the novel when I was at Cirencester Ag College. What it did then was to put into words all the freshness and beauty of the rural world that I knew was there but couldn't fully identify or describe. Then I re-read it when I was living on Osney Island in the 1990s and was writing my own first novel. This was also a time of numbness and distress, when the truth about the family and the trusts was coming out. Not a pleasant time but the misery was helped a lot by books like The White Peacock. Now I'm living in yet another age. One where former incompetences and cruelties have run their course and are receding into the past, and where hard work and trying to balance this with quieter moments are the major issues. It's fascinating to read the book for the third time and to see what I missed the first and second times round.

When I used to drive up to Nottingham in the late seventies and early eighties to see my girlfriend, Belinda, we used to go walking in the places where Lawrence's novels were set. One time we visited the little church above the stately home that features in The White Peacock and saw the ballustraded terracing that Lawrence mentions. The big house was by then a football academy. After a while we noticed a man standing in the graveyard. We got talking - I remember noticing his frayed cuffs and old-looking gold cufflinks as he began to tell us about the house and his ancestors. He was a descendant of the landowner on which Lawrence's squire was based. The man invited us to the family's current home, which though much smaller, was still pretty massive. An ancient wood-panelled place with Stubbs painting hanging on the walls and a blazing log fire. The squire was portrayed by Lawrence as a despot who had no time for the welfare of the people that lived on his estate. The man we met had some choice stories about Lawrence and why he wasn't a decent chap and was over-rated as a writer. I loved the fact that there we were with the battle between the family and the author still going on in front of our very eyes.

Saturday 13 December 2014

coppicing, first light

They've been coppicing along the south-west boundary of the Millennium wood.

Gorgeous walk in the first light this morning.

Thursday 11 December 2014

sorting, dog-walking, gathering storms, hollybush, st a's

‎Another day spent sorting.

Though it was wonderful to be out dog-walking early in the morning as the storms gathered.

A fine late lunch at the Hollybush Witney followed the sorting.

Looking forward to the St Antony's Christmas lunch tomorrow.

Frank Egerton

Visit http://www.justthoughtsnstuff.com

Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone

Wednesday 10 December 2014

days off, sorting papers..., lovely walk, orinoco: festive swap shop

Taking some days off this week - not to go on holiday but to sort out papers that have been building up over the years. Since we moved to Bampton, in fact. A curiously satisfying exercise, so far. You look at some of the stuff (well, most of it actually) and think/gasp, 'Why's that been sitting under the bed for the last fourteen years!'

A lovely walk to start the day, which took in the Thatcher's Fields (top photo) and Hayway Lane (the other two pics).

Meantime, a colleague emailed round this morning about a charity in Headington that she volunteers for called Orinoco that 'promotes re-use, art and creative play through education and direct action'. They're running a festive swap shop event this Saturday: 'This Saturday we’re having a bit of a festive Swap Shop from 11:00 til 13:00 and there will be Christmas food, a tombola, and possibly even a visit from Father Christmas!' Sounds great!

Saturday 6 December 2014

frost, early walk, sunrise, hiroshima mon amour, images, life-writing lunch, jm coetzee, dr michelle kelly, confession, heart speech, trust, pint

A frosty start. The first time the pond has frozen over this autumn.

The roads were too treacherous for cycling - memories of coming off the bike the winter before last returned as a warning. So I went for a good walk - round the village, into the valley and back via the Millennium wood. A beautiful rich egg-yolk sunrise. Loved the effects of the frost on the post-top, the tyre track and the old roller.

Watched Hiroshima Mon Amour for the first time, midweek. I'd intended to watch just the first half but was so drawn into it that I continued to the end. Mesmerisingly photographed and acted. It reminded me slightly of In the Mood for Love. I read Marguerite Duras' screenplay about thirty years ago - more than that - several times and have always wanted to see the film. I had to wait for the convenience of iTunes to do so!

The copy of the script I had featured stills from the film. It was amazing to see the images in context - they kept cropping up and I felt, rightly or wrongly, that I could still identify the exact frame of each image.

On Tuesday I went to the Life-Writing lunch at Wolfson. I love this event, which always happens in the last week of term. This time, the speaker was Dr Michelle Kelly from the English Faculty. She talked about JM Coetzee and confession - she explained that her area of expertise was not life-writing as such but that she is currently working on a book about confession in literature. [With apologies for any transcription errors.]

She pointed to the paradoxical nature of confessional writing, which is on the one hand a free expression of the heart but on the other usually couched in formal ways, whether legal, religious or literary. In considering the aim of confession, she turned to Coetzee's essay, Confession and Double Thoughts: Tolstoy, Rousseau, Dostoevsky (1985), in which he refers to the cycle of, 'transgression, confession, penitence and absolution...'

On absolution, Coetzee wrote: 'Absolution means the end of the episode, the closing of the chapter, liberation from the oppression of memory. Absolution in this sense is therefore the indispensable goal of all confession, sacramental or secular...' '...the closing of the chapter, the end of the downward spiral of self-accusations whose depths can never be plumbed...'

Dr Kelly turned to Coetzee's fictional-autobiographical trilogy, Scenes from Provincial Life, in order to examine ways that the author used confessional writing, or 'heart speech', through his literary counterpart (I hesitate to use the word alter-ego), John. In the books, writing becomes a kind of forgetting and sealing of experiences away.

The trilogy interestingly also leads to a conclusion that denies the catharsis of absolution. John confesses to his father that he broke a record that he had brought back from Italy at the end of the Second World War. Yet the father appears to ignore him and he is denied the hoped-for ending; denied forgiveness.

Near the beginning of the talk I was particularly struck by Coetzee's belief that 'all writing is autobiography', which I can clearly see the wisdom of - obviously in this blog, but also in my reviewing and my fiction.

During questions, the director of the Oxford Centre for Life-Writing, Hermione Lee, wondered if autobiography was only about sin, shame, confession, forgiveness. In reply, Dr Kelly picked up on the therapeutic force and the legal force of confession as being other aspects of the subject. Confession might lead to therapy; legal confession might actually mitigate blame.

Another questioner was intrigued by the duality of ostensibly selfless confessional writing being also very much about the writer and an act of self-interest and exhibitionism. The questioner alluded to a confessional piece of writing being written in an author's style and being a text that advertises the writer.

Again things that resonate. Especially when I think of Trust: A family story, the life-writing work I am currently engaged in. The narratives contained within it are mine and I am aware that truth might be constrained by point of view, not to mention style, within them. These are difficult areas - in confessional writing and in something like Trust, which seeks to explain events in as truthful a way as possible. I would like to discuss these issues at the Centre when the work is in its developed form.

Meantime, on Monday I have a meeting about a possible Digital Humanities research project focusing on shape in fiction, which I am looking forward to and am excited about.

For now, though, a Saturday afternoon pint!