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 May 2017

morris, barley straw, raindrops, traditional log fire

'Whitsun' bank holiday in Bampton.

Saw some Morris dancing earlier before starting on gardening. Replaced one of the nets of barley straw in the pond - making sure all the tadpoles got put back - then headed for the allotment. Almost as soon as I started pedalling up the street, the first raindrops fell. Back home rather earlier than planned.

We had imagined we would be having lunch at the top of the garden, as yesterday, but we'll probably end up eating in front of a cheery log fire. Traditional, at least!

Saturday 27 May 2017

swans, ducks, grebe pool, happy times, kellogg hub, bampton whitsun weekend, ancient cacao, roque dalton, sir francis chichester

These swans and ducks were near the confluence of streams at the southern end of Fiddler's Island beside Port Meadow. The streams widen at this point and when we lived on Osney Island, we used to cycle here on Saturday summer evenings and have a picnic on the bank. We called it the grebe pool and we would sit and watch the grebes, the other water birds and the reed warblers. Very happy times.

This morning, I got up early, so that I could get to the allotment before the promised downpour. All set, I stepped towards the back door and... the heavens opened. Ah well, there were other things I could be doing. Only about five minutes later did I remember that my shoes were outside!

At the beginning of the week, I visited the Hub at Kellogg College for the first time. I've watched this being built and was really looking forward to its completion. It was great - a lovely atmosphere and terrific views from the cafe across the lawns towards the dining hall. Housing a cafe and the common room, the building is what the college was missing. It is also the first in Oxford to use an environmentally friendly low energy design called Passivhaus.

By the bye, Prince Charles visited the college the other day. A tour of the Hub was included, naturally.

Yesterday was the start of the Bampton Whitsun weekend. There will be folk songs and music late into the night in the pubs and a full day of Morris dancing on Monday. This evening it's the renowned Shirt Race. Last night we had a pint in the garden of the Romany and watched one of the Morris sides practicing as the light fell.

A couple of excellent World Service programmes on Latin American themes recently: The Bittersweet Tale of Cocoa - the story of cacao in ancient Latin America - (check out this chocolate drink recipe and cheese dunking suggestion from food historian, Maricel Presilla); and Witness's The Killing of Poet Roque Dalton, which tells of the life and untimely death of El Salvadorian poet Roque Dalton, who was killed by fellow rebels in 1975 - five of his poems can be read on the BOMB Magazine site.

Also, have to mention this Sporting Witness programme about Sir Francis Chichester and his round-the-world solo voyage in 1967. (Doesn't seem to be available on the web yet, though.) Sir Francis sounds quite a character. So strange listening to programmes about far-off historical events and thinking, I remember that!

Wednesday 24 May 2017

woolly willow seeds

The female catkins on the willows beside the Thames were decidedly woolly this morning.

And this afternoon, at Visualisation training, the woolly seeds were blowing through the open windows.

Tuesday 23 May 2017

glorious walks, antidotes

Glorious walks to work along the Thames and its streams.

Antidotes to busy days.

Saturday 20 May 2017

busy week, working-saturday, sambucus nigra

A busy and exhausting week.

Also, lots of rain. Though this has meant that the pond has filled up again. It had dropped considerably in the spring.

Working-Saturday - the weekend begins at 4 pm!

Love the budding Sambucas Nigra, or Common Elder.

Saturday 13 May 2017

trip to yorkshire, lovely evening with family, mum and dad's grave, university of bradford welcome, carillon magic, poem

Midweek, I drove to Yorkshire to assess a Latin American collection at the University of Bradford library.

I stayed the night with relatives - what a lovely evening - and visited my parents' grave at Little Ouseburn. It was the first time I had returned to the grave since my mother's funeral eighteen months ago. Since then the stone cross had been reinstated. The carved emblem that Mum had wanted looked far more striking than in the photos the stonemason had sent me - good though those were.

I really enjoyed visiting the library at Bradford and was made so welcome by the special collections librarians.

When I got home, I was thrilled to find that a new carillon had been installed in our church. I had no idea this was happening. When we first moved to the village, we loved the old carillon - it was so magical to hear the tunes being played throughout the day. But the mechanism was old and it broke and it was too expensive to replace it. But now, as a result of a bequest, there is music again - a different tune for each day of the week, played at 9 am and 5 pm. Today's is Home Sweet Home. I'll try and get a recording soon.

Little Ouseburn Churchyard, 10th May 2017

Past the bench, the Meysey-Thompson plot
Is defined by a tall dense line of cypresses.
A green room for my ancestors,
Partitioned from the rest of the village.
A place perhaps where they wait to go on.
Dad certainly never quite got to that point.
A life forever about to happen.
I look for my parents' grave and walk
Straight past it.
I turn and there is the carving for Mum,
In the centre of this side of the cross.
It is finer than the photos suggested -
The ones the stonemason sent before
He replaced the monument six months
After her funeral.
After the earth had settled.
Instinctively, I check the level by eye.
For now it looks perfect - Dad would be pleased -
And come to think of it, so would Mum.
It is unlike the other crosses:
Leaning tipsily,
Suggestive of the fun times they would
Have had at the hall - designed by Lord Burlington,
Pulled down by the reclamation firm,
Nicknamed the Forty Thieves.
A business thriving on the stately homes
That could not go on,
Broken by war.
Great-grandfather's heart broken
When Claude, his only son, was
Killed in action.
I think Dad thought that was when it all
Went wrong. An imaginative man,
My father.
Nettles are sprouting lustily on the
Grave side of the cross, near the head.
Without thinking, I find a cypress branch -
Fallen, dried but still strong.
Not yet brittle.
I beat the nettles away.
Some break cleanly,
Others are stubborn.
I hack and at last they flap into the air.
I wanted to tidy the grave,
To make it look loved.
I went out of my way to spare
A red dead nettle,
The only posey.
Though when I look harder,
There are speedwell flowers
Peeping through the grasses in the dip
Of the grave.
Even a stem of ground ivy.
Mum and Dad face the old
Mausoleum, not used since the Victorians.
The sun lights the different shades of
Buttermilk stone. The Doric columns,
The triglyphs, the dome of lead.
It was Dad who taught me about
The classical architectural orders;
Learned at Stowe, where I would follow.
I look at the haloed crosses,
Some rough cut like granite.
Mum and Dad's, smooth pale stone to look at,
Fine sandpaper to touch.
His side, a skull and crossbones -
Or Glory, 17/21 Lancers - 1930-2012.
Hers a wren above a crown and anchor -
WRNS - 1925-2015.
In the sycamore beside the building,
Not a wren but a fruity-voiced blackbird.
The tree and the holly beside it are in
Abundant flower.
To the west, clouds thicken.
There is the faint sound of traffic in the village.
I lay my hand on the cross.
'You stupid lot. You stupid lot.
I hope you're at peace.'
As I pass the bench, I notice a pair of glasses
Laid on it.
For a moment I think they must be
My Dad's.
They are owlish. They suggest his face.
But they cannot be his.
I walk on.

Tuesday 9 May 2017

paul's scarlet, castle mill stream, brrrr!, log fire

Walked along Castle Mill Stream at the southern end of Port Meadow this morning on my way to work.

The Paul's Scarlet mays are out. This one is always especially vivid.

An exceptionally cold May day, though. Never warmed up - till, that is, I got home and lit a log fire.

Sunday 7 May 2017

punting, time flown, duke of yorks up

Went punting yesterday for the first time in twenty-or-so years. It was fantastic! Even though there was a chilly breeze. Found a sheltered spot beside the water meadows just up river from Wolfson College. Delicious lunch at the Cherwell Boathouse afterwards.

Yesterday was, bye the bye, the anniversary of the day we moved to Bampton. The time has flown. Such a wonderful place to live.

On the allotment this morning, the first spuds were up - the row of Duke of Yorks.

Thursday 4 May 2017

dexters in raleigh park, complete with crow

The cattle have been turned out in Raleigh Park.

Not quite sure what breed they are but I think they're black Dexters.

There were a number of them lolling about as I walked down the hill. There was a crow pecking at one of the bullock's backs and as I approached he started flitting to another, then another, before flying off. Had to blow this photo up hugely to give an impression of the bird.

Meanwhile the construction of the new Westgate Centre continues in the city centre in the far distance.

Monday 1 May 2017

may day, campion, may blossom, no revellers, no cuckoo, but excellent curlews

Into work first thing - though I had enough time in hand for a walk along the Thames to Port Meadow from Osney.

No sign of the 27,000 revellers, who turned out for May Morning in the High Street to hear the choristers on Magdalen Tower.

Got home about 1.30 pm and went for a lovely stroll with J and T. We took the route that brings you out at the southern end of Marsh Lane, where J heard the first cuckoo on 20th April. I lived in hope but there was no sign... Excellent trills from the curlews, though.