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.

Sunday 29 March 2015

downton series six

It was on Thursday 22nd April 2010 that I posted about a new TV series that was being filmed in Bampton called Downton Abbey. Since then, that and my one or two other Downton posts have received more hits than any others on jtns.

Now it's the last series. No more will the little tell-tale magenta signs appear on speed limit signposts. No more will we turn out to watch the filming.

Also, as we don't have a TV, we have established a tradition of watching the latest Downton boxed set each Christmas. Christmases just won't be the same after 2015!

Saturday 28 March 2015

bug, village pump, dh/cw, trust: a family story, shiver, record, allotment

Had some sort of stomach bug that started not long after I'd written last week's post.

Knocked me for six, although I did get to Oxford for my meetings with the students on Sunday. When I was back home, though, I slept for nearly all the rest of the day. Have since heard of a number of people going down with the same thing. Has taken quite a long time to feel right - not quite there yet in fact.

Enjoyed cycling this morning. Took the photos above at Broadwell. I've passed the village pump countless times but have never till now tried to photograph it.

Continuing to develop the Digital Humanities/creative writing project. Also working on Trust: A family story - assembling material that I want to quote from, including relevant posts from jtns. It's quite strange reading through the BlogBooker PDF of all the posts since 2010 and seeing how the nightmare that detonated in my life almost as soon as I started writing it was reflected in the posts. Sometimes what I'm reading sends a shiver down my spine - but I'm glad I kept writing the blog and have a record of what I was living through.

Catching up with admin today and thinking about that allotment! If it hadn't been raining today I would have liked to get up there and start work.

Saturday 21 March 2015

frog spawn, daffodils, bloomin cold, stop-go spring, mst res, now you know by brian nisbet book launch

There is frog spawn in the pond at the top of the garden.

There are daffodils out around the bases of the lime trees on the opposite side of the street.

It was still bloomin cold, though, when I went cycling early this morning.

Very stop-go, spring is.

This weekend it's the MSt in Creative Writing residence.  It will be great to see the students.

Looking forward to the launch of Now You Know by Brian Nisbet, a former student on the Diploma course. A wonderful man. The event, which will include music, readings and refreshments, is at Rewley House on Thursday 9th April from 4-6 pm.

'One of the most urbane, talented and erudite students I have ever taught... with a passionate hunger for poetry, language and ideas.' Jenny Lewis: Musician, Poet, Playwright; Tutor, Oxford University's Diploma in Creative Writing.

Saturday 14 March 2015

day off, st margaret of antioch's, binsey, yew pollen

Took a very welcome day off yesterday.

We visited the church of St Margaret of Antioch, Binsey, which I first wrote about early in the life of justthoughtsnstuff on 7th April 2010. (What a lot has happened since then!)

We were married at Binsey two decades ago - gosh!!

The church and its graveyard remain magical places. Yesterday, the yew flowers were covered in pollen and when we tapped them clouds of fine yellow dust sprinkled the air.

Saturday 7 March 2015

wolvercote reindeer, anuario americanista europeo, natalia revuelta, cw-dh, master's res, 12 degrees c

Delighted to say that the canal towpath from Wolvercote is now dry enough to walk along without picking up acres of mud. Though an unexpected pair of reindeer greeted me as I crossed the bridge from Wolvercote Green at the beginning of the week.

Also loving cycling again!

The Anuario Americanista Europeo, mentioned last week, is now out. The whole issue dedicated to scholarly articles on the Digital Humanities and Latin American Studies.

On a related theme, there's a fascinating obituary in the Times today of Natalia Revuelta, the wealthy socialite who espoused Fidel Castro's revolution, became his mistress and was the mother of his daughter, Alina. For those who don't have access beyond the paywall, see the Washington Post obit.

Continuing to work on the creative writing Digital Humanities project and beginning preparations for the master's residence in a fortnight's time.

Temperature today forecast to hit 12 degrees C. Yey!

Sunday 1 March 2015

snowdrops, anuario americanista europeo, digital humanities, matthew l jockers, lynn cherny, catherine chanter, the well, woodstock bookshop

Snowdrops and other spring bulbs out in the garden. Very cheering. Especially as I have a bad cold...

The cold hasn't stopped my cycling, though. Whether this was a good idea, time will tell.

Spent quite a lot of yesterday doing some translation and editing work on the English-language abstracts for the next issue of the Latin American Studies journal Anuario Americanista Europeo. The issue is dedicated to the Digital Humanities as they relate to Latin American research. I won't give away the subjects covered but it promises to be a terrific read.

Speaking of the Digital Humanities, I was fascinated by the latest blog post from Professor Matthew L Jockers on his investigations into shape in fiction (see also the one published earlier in the month). I came across his work after Lynn Cherny's talk in Oxford last September. His findings, published on 2nd and 25th February, have attracted a lot of attention, including an article and an editorial piece in the Times on Thursday (these articles are, of course, behind the Times paywall...). It'll be great to read more when he publishes his academic paper. For now I'm left wondering about the immediate usefulness of some aspects of the six 'plots' his programme has identified as the archetypal structures underlying the 40,000 or so novels in his corpus. On the one hand the idea that writers naturally conform to one of these meta-structures when they put pen to paper is thought-provoking. How does the writer come to follow one of these shapes? What are the processes that ensure such a standardised fictional output? But on the other hand, common sense tells you that these six plots can't be fiction's whole story. The novels we read in a lifetime are - aren't they - all so varied? I wonder what Digital Humanities can tell us about the complexity of fiction writing, as opposed to the broadest of patterns that they might (or might not?) conform to.

I was also intrigued to see that Professor Jockers found an innovative way of comparing the texts - all of which were of different lengths - by using science developed at CERN (see 2nd February post). This seems to have converted the texts into a form of data where length was no longer an issue, so that they could be compared, before converting them back again. It may be that this process was of itself inert and had no effect on the validity of the results. Yet, were the lengths of the novels properly factored into the six plots? Looking at these plots the impression is that all the books that follow a particular plot paradigm have exactly the same shallowness or depth of plot arc as it rises and dips. But in relation to the length of a work, surely the effect of each shape is going to vary significantly, depending on how long or short the work is. Aren't the dips going to be more strung out in a longer work and more intense in a shorter one? And if so, aren't the effects of the rises and falls in the plot arcs on the reader going to be different in each case?

The broad approach taken by Professor Jockers leaves many questions unanswered but, as he himself says, his research has produced a plethora of data, so the six plot shapes are just the start of the story!

Finally, I'm really pleased to learn that a former student of mine,Catherine Chanter, is having her first novel published by Canongate on 5th March. It's called The Well and I read an early draft of part of it a couple of years ago. It's a tremendous story (which plot arc did she choose?). If you live near Woodstock, you can see Catherine reading at the Woodstock Bookshop on the 10th March at 7 pm.