Saturday, 25 April 2015

spam..., bike maintenance, spud planting, maris peer, champagne rhubarb disaster, unconscious memory, rita ricketts' scholars, poets and radicals

















After the spam email got onto jtns earlier and was speedily deleted thanks to an alert from @rupertbu on Twitter, I changed the tyres and brakes on the bike and replaced the back inner tube. There's been a slow puncture for some weeks and the back tyre was nearly bald. Good that it's all sorted now.

This afternoon, it was spud planting - the dibber's annual outing (for previous years, see post of Friday 18th April 2014 and links). Desiree and Kestrel - old favourites - plus Maris Peer (one that J likes). Also planted some champagne rhubarb. After last year's disaster - I think I planted the crowns upside down... It's so difficult to tell! Hope I've got it right this time. Then I put in some onions (Karmen and Sturon) and some shallots (Picaso and Vigamor).

Two events I'm looking forward to next week are the fourth Unconscious Memory Network seminar, entitled Neuroscience and Psychoanalysis, and a launch for my friend Rita Ricketts' book on the Blackwell collections, Scholars, Poets and Radicals.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

cowslips, childhood memory, edward thomas events, a conscious englishman by margaret keeping, 'junk food' wiping out bees

















Saw my first cowslips of the spring this morning. In a place I'd never seen them before too - on the edge of the Thatcher's field, just below the millennium wood. Beautiful sight. Seeing them always brings back a childhood memory, first described in the 'faces of the countryside' post of 25th April 2010.

There are a number of Edward Thomas events coming up over the next few months. On May 16th a plaque will be unveiled on 113 Cowley Road in Oxford at 2 pm. The house was where Thomas moved to as a non-collegiate student at Oxford University in 1897 (the same year as his first book was published, The Woodland Life). You can read more about this event on Margaret Keeping's blog. (Margaret's wonderful novel about Edward Thomas is, of course, published by StreetBooks: '[Margaret Keeping's] inhabitation of Edward, Robert, Helen and their world is tender and subtle...A lovely novel.'  Robert Macfarlane.)

On Saturday 13th June, the National Trust are holding a May Hill Celebration event between 10 am and 4 pm. 2015 being the centenary of Edward Thomas' poem Words, which he was inspired to write on May Hill. The event will include arts and poetry and the judging of the Trust's May Hill Poetry Competition, and is very much a family day out.



It seems the mention of cowslips on jtns is destined to go hand-in-hand with a depressing nature article in the Times. In 2010 it a piece about the book Silent Summer. Today, there is an article entitled, '"Junk food" wiping out bees'.

The article is hidden behind the Times and Sunday Times paywall but its central theme is summed up in the second paragraph: 'Scientists have found that, as native plants are replaced by crops, bees face a double threat. One is that for much of the year they cannot find enough nectar and pollen to survive; the other is that, even when crops such as oilseed rape come into flower, their pollen is often nutritionally deficient - the bee equivalent of junk food - making it harder to raise young or fight infections.'

It also makes the sad point that 23 bee and flower-visiting wasp species have become extinct in the last 160 years 'starved of food and nesting places by land use changes, according to research published in Science.'

The article ends with a quote from Bill Kunin, professor of ecology at Leeds University: '"Any remedy will involve maintaining more stretches of pristine natural habitat... Bees need a balanced diet, same as us."'

I suppose that seeing the cowslips today and my memory of seeing a field full of cowslips as a boy reflects the dramatic changes in the British countryside. Now we are just so grateful to see three or four cowslip plants.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

randolph hotel fire

















Shocked by the fire at the Randolph Hotel yesterday afternoon.

At first it seemed that the fire had been put out rapidly but every so often little flames licked up the side of one of the windows in the mansard roof directly opposite the library. These soon seemed to die away only to reappear a few minutes later. Smoke started to wisp through the tiles. Fierce flames erupted from the top.

The speed of the fire then was terrifying, slates falling from the roof and smoke swirling and thickening.

When the fireman at the top of the tall ladder directed the hose onto the roof it looked as if the thin jet of water was nothing but then there were waterfalls cascading down the walls and you realised just how much water was being pumped out. It was at this point that the decision to close the library building was taken but by the time we were all in the street it was clear that the fire was being brought under control.

I'm pleased to say that the library is open as usual this morning, although several streets remain closed.

Above all, it's wonderful news that everyone was safe. I hope the hotel soon reopens and life there gets back to normal.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

oerc, bloodhound ssc, arc launch, allotment, glorious weather, frog pond, the white peacock

















Attended a meeting at OeRC, the Oxford e-Research Centre, yesterday.

As I arrived a replica of the Bloodhound SSC - Supersonic Car - was being wheeled into position in between the centre and my old college, Keble. The car was part of the centre's exciting Advanced Research Computing (ARC) launch (check out the full ARC site).

Meantime, I've spent two lovely evenings working on the allotment in this glorious weather! Followed by a glass of wine with J at the top of the garden, overlooking the frog pond, which is alive with tadpoles.

Still finding a little time to read more of The White Peacock - proving to be better than ever.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

brian nisbet, now you know

















Loved Brian Nisbet's launch party for his poetry collection Now You Know. See Brian's website for more about his work.

The event took place at Rewley House in Oxford on Thursday afternoon and was introduced by poet Jenny Lewis.

There were beautiful settings of Brian's poems to music (played exquisitely by his wife Emily, on trombone, and a violinist) with accompanying readings by Mary Lucille Hindmarch (who organised the event) and Patrick Collins, drama tutor at Oxford University's Department for Continuing Education.

There were also wonderful readings of five of Brian's poems by poet and great admirer of Brian's work RV Bailey.

I loved seeing Brian again and hearing his poems. I worked with him on long fiction during the second year of the Oxford Diploma in Creative Writing. On Thursday we saw how gifted he is when it comes to poetic language and its rhythms and sounds and ‎range of effects, whether communicating profound insight into human experience or brilliant comedy.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

allotment, radcot bridge, the white peacock

















Enjoying working on the allotment, although I am discovering muscles I had forgotten I had. Taking it slowly...

Beautiful weather for a little holiday - loved relaxing beside the Thames at Radcot Bridge earlier.

Enjoying picking up with The White Peacock where I left off. Such a wonderfully evocative book!

Monday, 6 April 2015

tadpole nursery


That tadpole nursery I was talking about on Saturday.

Saturday, 4 April 2015

holiday time, pond clearing, tadpoles, conted award ceremony, brian nisbet's now you know, catherine chanter's the well, white violets, ant and pearly raindrops

















Taking some time off next week. Wonderful to be on holiday after a particularly hectic start to the year. Looking forward to doing some gardening.

Got going with the pond this afternoon - removing blanket weed and duckweed before the tadpoles hatch. Well, that was the theory but I was only just in time. A lot are already out and about - though fortunately keeping to their nursery area which is like a shallow bowl in the middle of the clumps of spawn that were laid amongst the yellow flag.

As tweeted earlier in the week, I loved attending the Award Ceremony for ContEd courses at the Sheldonian. Students from the Certificate of Higher Education and the Diploma in Creative Writing were graduating. Great to catch up with the students afterwards too.

Looking forward to Brian Nisbet's book launch next Thursday for Now You Know. See 21st March post (which was also the one in which I mentioned seeing the first clumps of frog spawn in the pond).

Meanwhile, very pleased that another former student, Catherine Chanter, is doing so well with her novel The Well, published by Canongate.

Terrific that the white violets are out along Calcroft Lane. The one above is being visited by an ant. Surrounded by pearly raindrops.

Friday, 3 April 2015