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.

Wednesday 28 December 2016

fog, kelmscott

Thick fog never lifted. Cold and damp too.

Walked near Kelmscott.

Tuesday 27 December 2016

newbridge to shifford lock, maybush, war and peace, downton substitute

Walked the Thames from Newbridge to Shifford Lock. A beautiful stroll through mostly broad, broad water meadows and a shortish stretch of riverside copse. Although we've done Shifford Lock from Tadpole Bridge before, this was the first time doing this walk. It was wonderful.

A fine pint at the Maybush afterwards.

Back at home, we had a late lunch, watching the BBC's War and Peace. DVD boxed set, as we don't have a TV and therefore missed this at the start of the year. Usually, of course, we would be watching the Downton boxed set - but this is an excellent substitute!

boxing day walk, empathy, marriage foundation article in the times, conted, rosa stromeyer

A lovely Boxing Day walk along the Thames from Tadpole Bridge to Old Man's Bridge (shown above). Gorgeous sunshine.

Loved yesterday - including, before our lunch, a Radio 4 programme about empathy, which preceded the Queen's speech. Jane Davis, founder of the Reader (an organisation that works 'to connect people with great literature through shared reading'), said, 'How do you manage your feelings in relation to someone you both love and hate?...Books are brilliant for that kind of complexity.' Which made me think - then and today - of how I felt as a child. I remembered this programme when reading an article in today's Times about the 1.04 million children that find themselves in unhappy homes at Christmas. This shockingly high figure was revealed by a survey commissioned by the Marriage Foundation and the article very much struck a chord. I hope I can still feel compassion for both my parents when I remember the terrible rows that blighted my childhood and how unhappy they both were - while also being very aware of the awful damage caused by these rows, then and for decades to come.

Meantime, I much enjoyed recommending open educational resources (OERs) in Creative Writing for the Christmas webpage published by Oxford University's Department for Continuing Education. It's great to read those suggested by tutors in other subjects too.

I also loved the ContEd blog post about Rosa Stromeyer, who taught at an earlier incarnation of Rewley House in the late nineteenth century. A story that made me immensely proud to work in Oxford's continuing education department.

Sunday 25 December 2016

happy christmas!

Happy Christmas from jtns! Hope you've had a terrific day!

Friday 23 December 2016

violet in flower, a boy is born: palestrina's missa hodie christus natus est; taverner's the lamb; warlock's benedicamus domino

J alerted me to this violet in flower in the village. Lovely to see.

Really enjoyed Bampton Classical Opera's A Boy is Born: Christmas music from the Renaissance & 20th century at St Mary's on the shortest day (also, as the programme says, St Beornwald's Day!). A series of delightful short pieces structured round Palestrina's Missa Hodie Christus natus est, including Taverner's The Lamb and Warlock's vivid and adventurous Benedicamus Domino.

Wednesday 21 December 2016

christmas holidays, bare park, sunrise on the shortest day, parties, thrush singing between dean court and cumnor hill

My last day at work in 2016 was yesterday and the view from Raleigh Park was of bare trees and Oxford city centre almost obscured by mist.

This morning, on the shortest day, the sunrise over Bampton was bright pink and turquoise - the photo above gives a flavour but hardly does justice to the beauty of the sky as seen.

Last night there was a party at the library to celebrate the completion of the Relocation - a thank-you to all involved for all the hard work - and to continue the tradition of TABS parties in the new setting. It was wonderful. The last of a number of outstanding December parties in fact. The first MSt tutors Christmas get-together was last week and was brilliant!

For several days, not long after I have got off the bus and started my walk, I've come across a thrush singing in conifers above the little passageway between Dean Court and Cumnor Hill. Sometimes competing against traffic, sometimes against an aeroplane, the bird's song has been so clear and bright and cheering. I've posted a recording from Monday on SoundCloud:


Sunday 18 December 2016

willow walk, intricate fungus, quiet oxford, decorating our christmas tree, bill evans tracked down, hidden histories, cumberland vampire

I worked in Oxford at the library yesterday.

Caught the usual 6.30 bus and did the Cumnor Hill/Raleigh Park walk, which, as I noted the other week, has become my usual route into town since the end of the 18 service back in July. Gosh, time flies!

Saw this intricate, labyrinthine fungus on a tree beside the Willow Walk near North Hinksey. No idea what it is - perhaps identifying it will be something I shall do over the Christmas holiday, unless anyone reading this can identify it straight off.

Oxford is very quiet now that the colleges are winding down for the holidays and there are relatively few readers in the libraries,

When I came home we decorated our Christmas tree. A magical time.

On the bus into work midweek, I loved listening to the podcast of the the Bill Evans Composer of the Week series. You may remember that I was puzzled that it wasn't available on the iPlayer Radio. What I hadn't realised was that the programme was a repeat and so the download comes in the 2013 listings. Evans' story is as fascinating and as tragic as his music is sublime. An extraordinary man.

Over breakfast, I read Andrew Holgate's Sunday Times review of Hidden Histories: A Spotter’s Guide to the British Landscape by Mary-Ann Ochota, which is, as Holgate says, a 'spotter’s guide to Britain’s historical landscape — what to see and how to decipher it'. Covering hillforts, tumuli and 'a satisfying variety of different subjects, from pathways, bridges and old houses, to hedges, churches, graveyards and field patterns left behind by medieval ploughmen.' Holgate is particularly intrigued by 'corpse roads' (also known as 'coffin roads') which lead from remote areas to churchyards. There is a remnant of one of these in Bampton. The lane ran between the village and nearby Aston, which for a long time didn't have its own church. Reading the review made me want to reach for my copy of  The Making of the English Landscape by WG Hoskins but also to buy what sounds a very readable contemporary exploration of our amazing countryside.

Very much enjoying Katharine Briggs' British Folk-Tales and Legends. For example, the shortened version of Croglin Grange, an unusual British vampire tale set in the wilds of Cumberland. See also, the Wikipedia article on Croglin Grange and its page on vampires.com.

Sunday 11 December 2016

cotswold rambles, clanfield kingfishers, mystery meals, cantos cautivos

Took some days off this week. Lovely long rambles in the Cotswolds near Burford and around the Great and Little Barringtons.

Today we walked to Clanfield and had a pint at the Tavern. On the way back, wandering along a track with deep ditches full of water either side, we saw a kingfisher‎ streaking down a length of ditch in two different places. I can't be sure but I don't think they were the same bird.  Every now and then each one would land on a branch and pause before zooming off again. On one occasion one of the kingfishers dived into the water as if to catch something. J has seen this happen along the track before and we both wonder what the birds find to eat in the ditches. They were dry until the recent rains and aren't, so far as we know, fed by streams.

As the photo of the wood off the track shows this was a colourful walk. Later, when the sun was setting the moon was out early - cool mint blue - and the western horizon was marbled pink and turquoise.

Bookmarked a site devoted to songs written by political prisoners in Chile during the Pinochet dictatorship, called Cantos Cautivos. It has recordings of the songs - some made clandestinely in the detention centres - the words to the songs and the prisoners' stories. Fascinating, courageous and poignant.‎ The text of the site is available in both Spanish and English and is well worth exploring.

Saturday 3 December 2016

walking sane, osney, 'houseboats', time passing, trust feedback, facing the strange by sb sweeney, end of term, news from nowhere

Walking to work from the outskirts of Botley each day keeps me sane.

I love the climb up Cumnor Hill to Raleigh Park, the descent to the ring road and the underpass and the gentler incline to Osney and the Thames. After Osney, there are three routes to choose from, depending on how much time I've got. My favourite is following the river to Bossoms boatyard, crossing Port Meadow then entering the city centre by way of the canal and Jericho. (Always tricky, seeing the 'houseboats' by Jericho. Lives I can't imagine - lives with their own order and ways of life.)

I remember walking the Thames from Osney to Port Meadow before I moved into the flat on the Island, imagining Sunday strolls to the Perch at Binsey and returning to Sunday lunches at h‎ome. We loved Osney and the Thames paths.

How much time has passed since then, though! Hard to imagine.

Very grateful to two friends for some uplifting and constructive feedback about Trust this week.

Also, extremely pleased when I bumped into a colleague the other evening and she heaped fantastic praise on SB Sweeney's Facing the Strange. It is a remarkable novel indeed! If your youth was mis-spent on fantasies of making it big in the music biz, ‎FtS might just be the perfect Christmas gift for you. It captures brilliantly an early 1990s world that is so different from our own now, for better or for worse.

The best ever Latin American Centre Christmas party towards the end of the week in the St Hugh's Fellows breakfast room, and a pint with Taylor colleagues after work to mark the end of Michaelmas Term last night. The festivities have started!

And another thing, which I'm sure you'll find hard to believe. At lunchtime, I realised that I needed a book in order to accomplish certain tasks. My first thought was, of course, Amazon. But then it occurred to me that the Witney bookshop, Waterstones, might have the title. It was a long shot and I doubted they would but I nevertheless picked up the landline handset on my desk, which I hardly ever use, and dialled their number - local, without the area code - and, after a bit of searching, yes, they had the book! They put it on reserve and, as we were heading into Witney for a late lunch, I collected it at 3.30 pm - having received a Society of Authors member discount (hurrah!) - from a real-life bookshop that was... humming! Gosh, how wonderful to see! I felt like William Morris in News From Nowhere, falling asleep and waking in this strange, medieval-seeming land!