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 27 March 2016

sunlight, fleeting storm clouds, 'a flying day', katherine mansfield society, bluebells, marsh marigolds, happy easter!!!

The threatened rain held off this morning and I enjoyed cycling. True, the return journey, being blown back along the Clanfield road by the gale, was better than the one out, but the sunlight, sometimes broken by fleeting storm clouds, was always wonderful.

The weather made me think of Katherine Mansfield's short story Bank Holiday and the lines: 'It is a flying day, half sun, half wind. When the sun goes in a shadow flies over; when it comes out again it is fiery.' Which must have been about a day that occurred later in the year, though this morning there was real warmth in the sun.

(While looking for a copy of the Mansfield story, I came across the Katherine Mansfield Society website, which looks well worth a visit.)

The bluebells are in flower at the top of the garden beyond the pond and the marsh marigolds are out in the ditch alongside Calcroft Lane.

Happy Easter!!!

Friday 25 March 2016

twenty-four hour flu, strange days, forward, ladybird, shaky fence, wolf hall

That twenty-four hour flu that affected colleagues during Hilary term finally got me on Wednesday. Well, at least I didn't have to work in the attic, sorting through papers that day!

It has been a strange few days, though, sorting-wise. I've gone through files that have been stashed since we arrived here. And other docs and papers that I stopped sorting around the time of my parents' bankruptcy.

That was when all time stopped, really. Perhaps it is only now that things are actually starting to go forward again.

Today was beautiful. The sunlight was different to any we've seen this year. Butterflies, bees - and ladybirds - were out. Including this ladybird on our garden fence just outside the back door. The bright light on the shell is the sun.

The fence I built thirteen years ago and that J painted to make it last longer a couple of years back. The fence is a little shaky in places these days. But then so are we!

Watching Wolf Hall on DVD when we have our late lunch in front of the log fire, as the advancing afternoon begins to chill. A mesmeric, slow-burn of a series. Utterly captivated - fascinated - now we've reached episode three.

Tuesday 22 March 2016

time off, stuff, beautiful sunlight, coltsfoot

Taking some time off. A lot of this will be spent sorting out all the stuff that accumulates.

Beautiful sunlight when I went cycling.

Saw coltsfoot growing on a sand heap in a farmyard in the next door hamlet.

Monday 21 March 2016

early oxford walk, with love from a stranger

Reached the outskirts of Oxford at 6.50 this morning. Wasn't due to meet my student till 8 but needed to catch an early bus in case there was a traffic jam - all too likely, what with all the road improvements.

Got off at the Seacourt stop and walked to Osney via North Hinksey. Old haunts. Came across this faded letter signed 'With love, From A. Stranger x' on the Thames path beside the Osney Mead industrial estate.

Saturday 19 March 2016

stalled spring, lichens, clanfield tavern, irish peated ale, mst in creative writing residence

Walked cross-country to Clanfield. A thin day, with a unforgiving chill breeze. It's as if the promise of spring has stalled on a day like today - the grey light emphasising the picked-clean bareness of the landscape. Yet there is plenty of fresh green growth waiting for sunlight to show it off.

The lichens were bright.

We, and the dog, sat in front of the blazing log fire at the Clanfield Tavern. An intriguing pint of Marston's Revionist Irish Peated Ale. Pleasant and refreshing, although I rather agree with this review.

The weekend of the MSt in Creative Writing residence. Looking forward to my meetings with the students I'm supervising. Then a few days' time off to look forward to. Allotmenting mostly.

Saturday 12 March 2016

misty, frog spawn, wild west roads, john mcgahern, ballsbridge buggy, crane

A misty cycle ride. Very chilly too, especially on the hands.

Hope the frog spawn in the pond is OK. The first lot was sighted a few weeks back (Sunday 21st February) but over the last couple of days the main clumps have been appearing. As you approach the pond, there a terrific swishing and splashing. When you reach it they've gone into hiding.

Because it's been so warm, the blanket weed stayed throughout the winter and had started to get a hold. But now the frogs are about in large numbers it's almost disappeared. Do they eat it?

As I think I once said on jtns, our village always reminds me of an Irish cattle town that has been plonked on the western edge of Oxfordshire. Well, now we've got the roads - exactly like they used to be in the wild west around Leenane, say, before the EU money came and all the improvements. Forget Downton Abbey, you could film a John McGahern here.

Fine, the potholes, if you've got a Chelsea Tractor - or a Ballsbridge Buggy, even (thanks, Irish Times, for that one!) - but when you've got a normal-sized hatchback, you're in there and the tarmac's above the roof.

Sunday 6 March 2016

vaughan williams, how novels work by john mullan, the novel: a biography by michael schmidt, more barns

Just downloaded a Vaughan Williams album, which includes The Lark Ascending and Five Variants of 'Dives and Lazarus'. Have been meaning to download the former for a while and was finally spurred into action when listening to a LSO recording of the latter on Radio 3 yesterday. Great to find them on the same album.

Am reading How Novels Work by John Mullan (OUP, 2006), which I'm enjoying immensely. It's based on his Guardian column of a decade or so ago.

Attended a talk given by Michael Schmidt about his 2014 book The Novel: A Biography (Harvard University Press) at the Kellogg College Centre for Creative Writing on Thursday evening. Fascinating to hear Schmidt - founder of Carcanet and the PN Review (just two of his many achievements) speak about his career and his views on poetry and fiction. The book is now on my reading list. It also has a terrific cover - click on the cover image on the HUP site to view it.  Schmidt ended with a quote from Ford Madox Ford, a novelist he much admires: 'So, if one can keep oneself out of it, one may present a picture of a sort of world and time.' A good maxim for creative writers - although what follows immediately after this quote will also resonate: 'I have tried to keep myself out of this work as much as I could - but try as hard as one may after self-effacement the great "I", like cheerfulness will come creeping in.' (Dedication to Dr Michael and Mrs Eileen Hall Lake, Return to Yesterday (1931 - Carcanet edition, 1999). You can hear Michael Schmidt and Michael Wood discussing The Novel: A Biography at the London Review Bookshop here.

A good walk from Buckland this afternoon. More barns. Just love the way the paint weathers sometimes.