Thursday, 31 August 2017

vapourous early morning walk, raphael, ipa, cherwell lunch







Up early for a walk over at Clanfield. The morning vapourous along the lane and in the fields; misty towards Folly Hill and the Iron Age fort.

A heavy dew and spider webs everywhere: some, near-symmetrical wheels; others seemingly randomly-woven stacks of dense strands.

Later, a bus trip to Oxford to see the Raphael drawings exhibition at the Ashmolean. So intriguing - as well as beautiful and inspiring. I know so little about the Italian Renaissance, really. Just the obvious things. Let alone about the techniques used. I thought the text on the boards accompanying the drawings was excellent, opening up the thinking behind the way things were done and why in accessible language. I loved the case that illustrated the tools and resources the artist used. Black ink from oak gourds, not least.

A half of American-style IPA at the Rose and Crown, North Parade, afterwards, and a delicious lunch on the banks of the Cherwell.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

light rain, owls























A little light rain during our walk this morning.

Last night, falling to sleep to the sound of owls.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

apples, reading, family papers


Some wonderful holiday days in west Oxfordshire: beautiful long walks, catching up on the allotment and in the garden, eating the produce (the delight of Cox and James Grieve apples), sitting out under the stars and marvelling - at our ignorance of the constellations as much as the stunning, infinity of it all!

Listening to owls in our garden.

Reading. A luxury. All Souls by Javier Marías - fascinating to see an Oxford I can just about remember through very narratorial, very cerebral, but also very intriguing, Spanish eyes. Now, Hangover Square by the immediate carry-you-along involving brilliant Patrick Hamilton.

Also, more practical things.

When Mum died I inherited the family papers. Not looked at since. Now, today, the process -  nearly two years later, and the right time to face this - begins: of the librarian's indexing, digitising and boxing; of occasionally dipping into; but mostly preparing to go through...

The broader aspects of how a multi-million pound fortune was turned into a million pound debt have already been explained by the bankruptcy process. But the nuances - the subtle revelations of what Mum and Dad (and others) did. That begins now.

I'm ready for that. Much water has flowed beneath the bridge.

Friday, 25 August 2017

out and about




Out and about in the beautiful west Oxfordshire and Cotswolds countryside.

Oh, and on the allotment too.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

cross-country to clanfield























A lovely walk cross-country to Clanfield yesterday.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

dog rose, the lock, liber dh wg, writers in oxford young oxfordshire writers comp
























The dog rose by the entrance to the Walton Well Road car park was in flower this week.

I remember it from years ago. If you're coming from Port Meadow, you go through the gate and there it is. It used to be intertwined with stems of Duke of Argyll's Teaplant but that seems to have gone now.

I'm surprised that the dog rose is still alive. There have been many changes to the car park over the last twenty-five to thirty years.

The dog rose featured in my first novel, The Lock (Smaller Sky, 2003) - see extract below. In Chapter 6, Elizabeth is walking towards Port Meadow to visit her daughter who is living with her boyfriend in a truck on the far side of the car park - the novel is set in the early 1990s during the Grunge and Travelling years.

Meantime, I recently joined a new Digital Humanities working group, which has been set up by LIBER (Ligue des Bibliothèques Européennes de Recherche - Association of European Research Libraries). If you're interested in DH you can find out more by visiting the group's page and the LIBER blog post about the launch workshop (which sadly I wasn't able to attend).

A reminder that the Writers in Oxford 25th Anniversary Young Oxfordshire Writers Competition closes very soon - entries must be sent before 1st September.

Two other writing competitions to consider are The Galley Beggar Press Short Story Prize 2017/18 and the Sixth Annual Mogford Food and Drink Short Story Prize (opens 26 October).

--

Extract from The Lock by Frank Egerton (Smaller Sky, 2003), Chapter 6, pp. 80-81 (now available as a Kindle ebook from StreetBooks)


Even near the bottom of the hill, the cover from the, in spring, scraggy-seeming ash trees, and the new growth of rosebay willowherb and dog rose bushes was impenetrable.  In amongst the last of these, Elizabeth noticed, with some surprise, growing the long, silvery-green tarragon-like branches and delicate star-shaped purple flowers of the Duke of Argyll’s teaplant.  She remembered seeing this before in an area of rough ground by the railway station, which was on the way along a short cut to the Island from the canal which she and Gerald had sometimes used when they were returning on summer nights from having a drink in Jericho after he had collected her from the University Press, where she then worked, shortly before they were married.  Since then, and though she had walked this way often over the years, she had not seen the shrub anywhere else.

Elizabeth also remembered how she and Gerald had spent time observing the structure of the teaplant when they first noticed it, and had then gone to his house and sat side by side on the green velvet sofa’s somewhat drab predecessor in the sitting-room, Gerald leafing through the pages of the Oxford Flower Book for the Pocket, both he and Elizabeth staring intently as if in competition with each other, until, with the alacrity of snap players, they cried simultaneously ‘There!’ and identified it.
She stopped walking for a moment and then approached the dense seethe of dog rose and teaplant, which were also, she now saw, bound up with a plethora of the flimsy but inexorable, twining stems of convolvulus, coming into leaf, but not yet in flower.  The dog rose flowers themselves were unusually large and big-petalled.  They were mostly pinky purple with thickly-stamened yellow centres, like pincushions, though there were some white ones, which she presumed must be on a separate bush, but it was impossible to tell.  She could have tried to part some of the stems and find out, but, quite apart from their large thorns, they were guarded by nettles.

Were, she wondered, lost for a moment in reverie, these bushes, with their extraordinary flowers, even dog roses?

Sunday, 13 August 2017

morning glory!, osney birthday party, hb allen centre







It's that morning glory time of year. Every one of them different. Each startlingly beautiful.

Worked in Oxford yesterday before going to a birthday party on Osney Island. Loved seeing friends.

On the way to work I took a photo of the old building on the former Acland site that is being incorporated into Keble College's HB Allen Centre. Extraordinary to see it sitting on stilts like this. Keble has put up so many new buildings since I was an undergraduate there in the 1980s.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

surprise!, ganoderma lucidum, frog pond replenished, hopefully brief floods

























Imagine my surprise when I came across this curious bracket fungus while walking from North Hinksey to Osney on my way to work earlier in the week.

Possibly an orange example of Ganoderma Lucidum - Ganoderma being a genus of mushroom found throughout the world, which is used in traditional Asian medicine.

A curiosity certainly - and not necessarily something that new visitors to this blog will want to see...

Sadly, the wonderful summer weather seems to have disappeared, although there have been some rather lovely periods of sunshine and refreshing breezes. The frog pond is fully replenished with water. As I tap away, there is an extraordinarily vicious and drenching hailstorm outside, cars whooshing through the - hopefully brief - floods!