Friday, 14 September 2018

happy memories, cow bells, catching up, rewriting and editing, tls life-writing special issue, coxes, 30th reunion gaudy...






Such happy memories of our holiday near La Chapelle d'Abondance.

The pictures above show the Eglise St Maurice and the post office. The bottom photo is of the wonderful mountain restaurant on the Col de Bassachaux a few miles away. See the website of the Office de Tourisme de la Chapelle d'Abondance.

If you'd like to hear the cow bell recording I mentioned last time, you can do so at my SoundCloud account.

I'd expected that I would make this post earlier but there is so much to catch up on workwise after a holiday. Also, I've been doing some furious rewriting and editing of Trust: A family story in the early morning and in the evening, inspired by the response to my talk about it at the summer school. Well over half of it done now.

On the subject of life-writing, this week's Times Literary Supplement is a life-writing special issue.

Finishing up beans, courgettes and cucumbers, all of which are running out of steam on the allotment. Very early finish this year. In the garden, we have moved from the James Grieves to the Coxes - which are fantastic!

Keble 30th reunion gaudy tomorrow. Thirty years - unbelievable!

Saturday, 1 September 2018

holiday, montreux, freddie mercury, abondance cheese, dippers, back to west ox, the black prince by iris murdoch







A brilliant trip to the French Alps, via Montreux, Évian-les-Bains and Lausanne.

Photos and post, part one.

In part two there will be a recording of cow bells from the high meadows.

Delicious Abondance cheese.

Amazing walks. Saw so many dippers - a dozen or more - on one particular walk beside an Alpine river just before thunder and storms, including the one getting ready to dive in the video.

Also a lovely visit to the Casino restaurant in Montreux - past the Freddy Mercury memorial statue on Lac Léman. (Generous, beloved hosts' uncle Jim soon to be seen played by Tom Hollander in Bohemian Rhapsody.)

Back to a still summery west Ox. Some of the fierceness has gone out of the days but they remain gorgeous.

Decided to take a break from Jane Eyre and read The Black Prince by Iris Murdoch. What a novel - dated to begin with but then the sense of past idioms falls away and one is immersed in the essential humanity of the writer. And what momentum. Unputdownable!

Some prime quotes - three rather bleak, if wry, a fourth rather sublime:

--

The wicked prosper in front of our eyes and go on and on and on prospering. What a blessing it must have been once to be able to believe in hell.

--

The wicked regard time as discontinuous, the wicked dull their sense of natural causality. The good feel being as a total dense mesh of tiny interconnections. My lightest whim can affect the whole future.

--

It stirred some memory of a childhood holiday. Once in an endless meadow, just able to peer through the tawny haze of the grass tops, the child who was myself had watched a young fox catching mice, an elegant newly minted fox, straight from the hand of God, brilliantly ruddy, with black stockings and a white-tipped brush. The fox heard and turned. I saw its intense vivid mask, its liquid amber eyes. Then it was gone. An image of such beauty and such mysterious sense. The child wept and knew himself an artist.

--

Some clever writer (probably a Frenchman) has said: it is not enough to succeed; others must fail.

Sunday, 19 August 2018

oxford creative writing summer school, self-explanatory?, riverbank plants, produce, kentish treasures
























Gosh, the Exeter College Creative Writing Summer School sped by. Two groups this year so quite a lot to do. But what groups - loved working with them.

Talked about and read from Trust: A family story at my plenary session, which was entitled Self-explanatory? The blurb read as follows:

This talk is about life, fiction and some of the varied forms of life-writing: memoir; real-time (blogging); and poetry. It is a personal story that explores broader writing questions, including relative truth – neither the self nor the past stand still, it seems – the value of life-writing and our ethical responsibilities to others... and to ourselves. The talk includes readings of prose and poetry.

There were a lot of questions at the end. I was touched by the positive comments.

Worked in Oxford yesterday. Lovely walk beforehand, including along the Thames to Port Meadow from Osney. Took the photos above on Fiddler's Island. The banks orgiastic with riverbank plants.

Have been enjoying the James Grieves. They are delicious this year - sharp but sweet. Today I harvested some 'quick' beetroots, spuds, French and runner beans, courgettes and cucumbers. Also did some digging - this was before the still-fierce sun came out and the plot felt quite autumnal. J is making cheese sauce for the beetroots to have with ham hock.

Meanwhile, J went to Kent last week and came back with three excellent Shepherd Neame beers, including the classic Master Brew, and a bottle of Westwell Naughty Hare Chardonnay. The last of these was outstanding! An extraordinary mineraliness that reminded me of the curious flint you get in some of the more intriguing Côtes du Rhônes.

Sunday, 5 August 2018

first james grieve, roasting hot!, cucumbers, onions and shallots























Our first apple of the season - a James Grieve faller.

Softer flesh than last year but an intense sweet flavour.

Roasting hot out - and inside the house. Yet things on the plot are keeping going. Excellent cucumbers this year! Onions and shallots lifted yesterday in the end.

Saturday, 28 July 2018

downpour, harvests contd, creative writing summer school, mst alum daisy johnson, everything under, man booker, beware the bonak

























Downpour at about five this morning. Ran to close the wide-open windows - though in about ten minutes it was gone. Welcomely cool now.

Harvested the last of the blackcurrants earlier in the week. Delicious lightly stewed. Intensity of flavour; rich fruity syrup!

The apples are rounding, despite the drought. If they grow to maturity, their taste will be the best, according to a piece in the Times.

Am hoping to dig the first spuds tomorrow - Maris Peer - but am not hopeful of a big crop.

Will lift the onions and shallots this afternoon, all being well, and put them in trays to dry.

The Creative Writing Summer School is underway. Wonderful to meet the students.

Took a break from Jane Eyre to read Daisy Johnson's debut novel Everything Under. An alum of the Oxford MSt in Creative Writing, her book has just been long-listed for the Man Booker.

Oxford canals, modern-day Oedipal plotline, lexicography, monsters, myths, identity, the persistence of past in present... What's not to like.

Not that the canals remain 'Oxford' ones for long. Realism shading into Gothic psycho-landscapes and dramas. The waterways - are they rivers or canals? - peopled by outsiders making their own rules, telling their own stories, living individual lives in a strung-out parallel society.

Humans and animals appear and disappear (sometimes underwater and for good), fear stalks the towpaths in the form of a jaw-snapping beast - the Bonak.

Johnson is excellent on the bewildering tangle of deep-riverside wastelands, inescapably littered with human detritus. The nymphs have certainly departed. There is a relish of the grime and filth of nature into which the characters slip and slide and are coated by. Childhood fascinations lingering in adulthood that you find in Sartre's La Nausée, perhaps.

I also liked her observations of a delightfully dysfunctional - house-living - family that the principal narrator Gretel stays with for a time on her quest for the mother who abandoned her. Johnson is great at evoking the impulsive behaviour of the kids, the scars born by the house - 'toys with no heads, holes in the walls, the handle to the bathroom pulled right off'. There is relentless inquistivness, experimentation and lifefulness. Small wonder the dad is a secret drinker.

The family, though, isn't what it seems. The couple's children are adopted, a child who was their own has disappeared. Part of the jigsaw of changeable human relationships, psychologies and sexualities that the novel pieces together.

Are there things that don't work? Of course. The balancing of the characters is somewhat uneven. Gretel is the principal narrator but her story can be overshadowed by those of the other characters. Not necessarily a problem - plenty of novels do this - The Great Gatsby for one, Elmet by Fiona Mozley for another - but I felt that if Gretel's prominence could have been amplified a touch more from time to time, the relationship between the reader and her would have been stronger. This would have made the book's final pages more powerful. I also felt that the moment when Gretel realises her and her mother's private language has set her apart from the rest of society could have been done more convincingly.

But such quibbles can't take away from this novel's vividly created world, the range and complexity of its emotional and psychological preoccupations and its shear un-put-downable momentum.

I knew what the Bonak would look like a long time before it appeared. I know that beast.

With Everything Under, Johnson taps into the zeitgeist of our terrors, needs, confusions and desires.

Sunday, 15 July 2018

harvests, high water, spider's web, tim pears' the wanderers, charlotte brontë's jane eyre, downton abbey the movie























Harvested blackcurrants on the allotment earlier. Also French and runner beans and several different kinds of Italian courgette. Lots of watering having to be done too. The plot is amazingly parched. Although the rivers and streams of west Oxfordshire are remarkably full of water, given the last time it rained was ages ago. Perhaps all that snow during the winter stocked up the aquifers.

Yesterday, when arriving at the allotment early, I saw this spider's web on the gate, drenched in dew.

Finished reading Tim Pears' The Wanderers this week. What a wonderful book! Gentle and relatively slow of pace but totally involving. Such vivid evocations of rural life and a remote country estate just before the outbreak of the First World War. Can't wait for the third part of the trilogy to be published.

Have now started re-reading Jane Eyre. What a writer, Charlotte Brontë is!

Meantime, Downton Abbey the movie has been given the go ahead - wonder if they will be filming it in Bampton. Hope so.

Saturday, 7 July 2018

common?, hh, ci, ba, strolling through the showers, harvests























Saw this 'Common' Brimstone butterfly in the garden of Howard's House hotel.

Excellent stay in Wiltshire at the Compasses Inn, Lower Chicksgrove, with excursions to HH and the Beckford Arms.

Somewhat stunned by the hot weather, although there was welcome rain on our Wednesday walk. We took an umbrella but in the event just enjoyed strolling through the light showers.

No rain at home. Lots of garden and allotment watering. But first French beans and Italian courgettes have been picked.

Friday, 29 June 2018

potato dibber catch-up, maris peer, bike in the mud, the sentence by stephanie scott, mary anne sate, imbecile by alice jolly


























I realised that I never posted pictures of the potato dibber this year. Well here it is - and here are the Maris Peer spuds I planted, almost ready to be lifted.

And on a mud and bike theme, here is a bike in the mud on the bank of one of the streams near Osney that flows into the Thames. Photographed on my walk to work earlier in the week.

This weekend, it's the MSt in Creative Writing Guided Retreat - the last time the tutors meet their students before finals. On Monday there will be the annual end-of-course student readings at Kellogg College, which I'm really looking forward to.

Talking of the MSt, a student I supervised several years ago got in touch to say she had sold her first novel, The Sentence. That neutral-sounding 'sold' doesn't say the half of it - see the MSt blog! So  pleased for you, Steph!

And again, talking of the MSt, I was thrilled to receive my copy of my fellow tutor Alice Jolly's brand new novel, Mary Anne Sate, Imbecile. A summer reading treat!

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

in flower, heady scents, end of the academic year, education continuing, vibrant expectation






So much is in flower in J's garden now, as we approach the longest day.

Heady scents too.

Can't quite believe that Oxford has reached the end of the academic year. University spaces are suddenly significantly quieter.

Though many courses - particularly Department for Continuing Education ones, which include Creative Writing at masters and undergraduate levels - never stop. Some even only begin to pick up outside full term.

A time of mild exhaustion and vibrant expectation.

Friday, 8 June 2018

angelica, digital editions, guide to northern archæology, great-great-great granddad, invisible









Alternating between walks across the shoulder of Cumnor Hill and along the Oxford canal.

This photo of a stem of grass and a wild angelica plant was taken beside the canal just below Wolvercote.

A highlight of the past two terms has been the Taylor Digital Editions course, which I did in Hilary before presenting two of the sessions in Trinity.

The course has been written by my colleague Emma and is tremendously rewarding and hugely enjoyable. It introduces both students and librarians to techniques used in the creation of digital editions. Course participants choose interesting texts from the Taylor collections and week by week learn skills including creating digital images of selected pages, encoding text according to Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) principles and depositing their digital edition in the University's data archive.

From the librarian's point of view, the course gives valuable insights into the world of our Digital Humanities researchers.

The book that I chose was one that my great-great-great grandfather edited, entitled Guide to Northern Archæology, which includes a translation of an academic paper written by the Danish antiquarian Christian Jürgensen Thomsen (1788-1865), which sets out his system of dating archaeological artifacts by reference to co-occurrence and archaeological context, including ancient literature. The inscription on the Taylor copy says it was presented by my ancestor on the 19th February 1852. Little did he know that one of his descendants would be working there many years later!

It was great fun to work on a few pages of a book that my ancestor had edited and presented to the library.

The images of the pages were uploaded to the Bodleian Special Collections Flickr group and the edition itself appears on the course webpage. The image and xml files were deposited in ORA-Data.

The last of these tasks means that the record for my ancestor's book sits alongside the uncut, unedited version of my second novel Invisible, which was uploaded into the research archive not long after it was published. Because it was written when I was teaching creative writing at Oxford, the work represented a research output. The version is a curiosity - there were reasons that some 10,000 words were cut!

Saturday, 2 June 2018

water lilies, bees, rewriting and editing trust: a family story, consultation, hard to do























The water lilies in our pond are flowering. The peonies are about to. There are many more bees. Things are looking up! Only a sole honey bee, though.

Have started at long last to rewrite and edit Trust: A family story. Am learning a lot about the text as I do so. Have achieved quite a lot in a relatively short space of time. Am loving the activity of rewriting and editing, if not some of the memories stirred.

Contributed to the Domestic Abuse Bill consultation in respect of coercive and controlling behaviour and economic abuse. Very hard to do. Stirred a lot of memories.

Saturday, 19 May 2018

oxford canal mural project, sunny days-chilly evenings, where are the bees?























One of the highlights of my Oxford canal walk is the Oxford Canal Mural Project. Perhaps the most striking work is Richard Wilson's kingfisher under the bridge near the Trap Grounds. Though all the murals are a joy to see.

Loving the sunny weather. Great to sit at the top of the garden at sunset - despite the chilly evenings.

What isn't so great is the almost total absence of bees this summer. With shrubs like the weigela in bloom and aquilegia flowering, I would have expected the garden to be buzzing but there's hardly anything.

As the Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust says, 'Heavy use of toxic sprays on flowers, intensive agriculture and a reduction in the number of insect pollinated crops has brought about a huge drop in bee populations. Urbanisation and loss of habitat have hit bees hard. Indeed some wild bee species are close to extinction. Never more so than now, bees need your support.' But, can this sudden absence be explained by sprays or was the hard winter to blame? Will numbers increase? If so when? The garden soundscape without bees is so unnerving.

Saturday, 12 May 2018

amazing bank holiday weekend, late lunches, rediscovering oxford canal walk, library tour























What an amazing bank holiday weekend! So hot and sunny!

Wasn't able to get to the allotment till Monday afternoon because I had office work to do but we had some lovely late lunches at the top of the garden by the frog pond.

Went to the allotment today to catch up. No sign of the spuds yet, although the shallots and onions are doing well. Last year's chard has come back. Should be picking some tomorrow.

Have been rediscovering the old Wolvercote Green-Oxford Canal-Jericho walk I used to do before the 18 bus route was axed. Having enough time to do this walk before work is dependent on traffic on the A40, which is why I've not done it for ages. There used to be long queues but I'd heard rumours that things were better, so, knowing that the mud on the towpath would have dried out by now, I decided to catch the S2 from Witney rather than the S1 and see what happened, Wednesday and Friday. Plenty of time! (I think also that in part I may have avoided doing the walk because it seemed so sad that the 18 had been cut...) The photo shows graffiti and lichen on a wall beside the Oxford canal near Jericho.

--

Very much enjoyed showing Dilma Rousseff, president of Brazil, 2011-2016, round the Bodleian Library prior to her lecture at St Antony's on Monday.

Friday, 4 May 2018

let's hear it for the nettles!, mark cocker's our place, busy start, planting























When walking through the churchyard of St Thomas the Martyr in west Oxford last Saturday - I was on way to work (one of my library Saturdays) - I saw bluebells growing amongst nettles.

I was reminded of a sobering Sunday Times book review by Christopher Hart of a few weeks ago. The book was Our Place: Can We Save Britain’s Wildlife Before It Is Too Late? by Mark Cocker (Cape, £18.99, pp.349). A self-evidently hard-hitting work that, amongst other things, challenges the British love of nature. Here's a quote:

'Cocker makes no apologies for the bleakness of his book. Truth matters. He also queries the sacred idea that the British "love the countryside". Do we mean, we love driving through it? Visiting pretty villages and nice pubs for lunch? He suggests that we are really a nation of gardeners: fatally tidy-minded, the wild joy of nature's riotous abundance lost to us, instead spraying weed killer on stinging nettles even though it's the weed killer that’s carcinogenic, not the nettles - which are crucial larval plants for peacock, red admiral, painted lady, comma and small tortoiseshell butterflies.'

Enough to make one unplug the strimmer's battery charger for good? Possibly.

Certainly a case of, Let's hear it for the nettles!

--

A busy start to the term. Without good spring weather to keep up energy levels. Still, the forecast is promising for the bank holiday weekend and I should be getting more spuds planted. The Maris Peer rows went in last weekend and onions and shallots the week before.

Saturday, 21 April 2018

spring flower walk, fritillaries, cowslips and a snail on a thorn, pippa's song by robert browning, sackler sundays

























Too wet to garden last weekend, so starting on the allotment was delayed yet more.

Went on a spring flower walk beside the Thames instead. Wonderful!

Love snake's head fritillaries!

Was intrigued by the snail on the blackthorn, though - and there were many more of them.

Brought to mind Robert Browning's poem, Pippa's Song:

The year's at the spring,
And day's at the morn;
Morning's at seven;
The hill-side's dew-pearl'd;
The lark's on the wing;
The snail's on the thorn;
God's in His heaven—
All's right with the world!

Why do snails like to climb thorns!

--

At the Sackler Library, we recently introduced Sunday opening - all the year round. This has been an exciting development - one which has been really popular with readers. I wrote a piece about it for the library blog before Easter. While it has my byline, however, this was very much a collaborative post involving a number of colleagues, who added design and editorial content. Then there's the Sunday team, who make everything work!

Saturday, 14 April 2018

white violets, liber digital conference in the hague, noughth week, sir roger bannister




























On the last but one day of our holiday, I went cycling and saw the big patch of white violets along Calcroft Lane, near Broadwell.

They bring such joy and freshness to the landscape, especially this gloomy spring. (Though all that may be about to change, if the weather forecasters are to be believed.)

On Sunday, I flew to Rotterdam from London City Airport for a conference at the KB National Library in The Hague. A truly rewarding and thoroughly enjoyable event, which, on the first day, focused on the Cultural Heritage Re-Use Charter, which is currently being drafted by LIBER, the Association of European Research Libraries. The second day was the members meeting of the LIBER Digital Humanities and Cultural Heritage Working Group, which included excellent presentations and break-out sessions. The latter were a great opportunity to meet colleagues and to learn new ideas and gain knowledge of innovative programmes and resources.

Although the conference was based in the commercial - high-rise - part of the city, there was a chance to do an hour or so of sight-seeing in the old quarter around the Binnenhof and the Mauritshuis (sadly closed by then) before everyone met at the Eetcafé de Paraplu for supper.

Overall, an exhausting but unmissable two days. Quite difficult to separate out the fizzing thoughts and write up my report now!

Not much time to collect my thoughts, because Oxford Noughth Week and the return of the undergraduates are almost upon us.

--

I recently contributed to a Department for Continuing Education article on the late Sir Roger Bannister. I taught Roger long fiction when he was studying for the Undergraduate Diploma in Creative Writing some years ago. It was a great privilege to do so and I was very sad to learn of his death. As the article suggests he was a truly inspirational devotee of life-long learning.

Friday, 6 April 2018

flooded landscape, first chiffchaff, first swallow


























The plan was to work on the allotment this week but our holiday didn't turn out like that.

Good walks - splashes - through the flooded landscape, though!

We saw our first chiffchaff yesterday. J saw first swallow today.

Saturday, 31 March 2018

time flies, waterlogged allotment, barrington park estate,fifteen clumps, the horseman by tim pears
























Time has flown.

Much of it spent trying to catch up with everything so that I could take a few days off around Easter.

The aim of this holiday was to prepare the allotment for sowing and planting... Not a chance. It was waterlogged after the recent snows and now the rain doesn't stop.

Talking of the recent snows, we went for a lovely walk on the Barrington Park Estate after the last lot. Rather beautiful views. Some deep - three to four foot - drifts on the old drove road, though.

There was ice on our pond that weekend and I don't yet know whether the clumps of frog spawn that had been laid by then survived. Time will tell. Though there is now no shortage of frog spawn - there are fifteen clumps. More than I have ever seen in our pond before. There was a lot of splashing!

Reading a brilliant book at the moment - one of the two by Tim Pears that I mentioned the other day: The Horseman.

Saturday, 17 March 2018

first frog spawn, forecasted freezing temperatures























First frog spawn of the spring in our pond. Worried, though, by the forecasted freezing temperatures.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

inexorable























When the snow cleared - almost as soon as it cleared - the spring came. On Sunday I looked at one of the big pots on our terrace and saw daffodils amongst the snow, their heads bent but starting to flower, the yellow petals unscathed, the leaves bright green. Ready to go. It was as if the spring would not be stopped.

At dawn the chorus has started and on the water meadows beside the Thames at Old Man's bridge the curlews have returned to nest.

Elsewhere - as in the photo above, taken near Raleigh Park in Oxford - the old is giving way to the new.

I've started reading Tim Pears' The Horseman. Though not before finishing Elmet, the Man Booker Prize-shortlisted first novel, by Fiona Mozley. I read about half around New Year and wondered whether I would go back to it. I'm glad I did. I can see why it was shortlisted - it's a thorough piece of work and its world and characters stay in the mind. Not that all the characters are that developed. Some are stock.

Elmet is set in South Yorkshire, in former mining villages and deep in the countryside. A time before mobile phones, I think I'm right in saying - don't remember one cropping up. A primitive-seeming time, where things have regressed to a kind of medieval lordship and serfdom society. The evil Mr Price, manor-owner, and his other land-owning cronies, grinding down their tenants and workers, who mostly live in privatised council houses that Price et al snapped up for song.

The story is told by Daniel, whose family - sister Cathy and their Daddy - have claimed squatters rights on Mr Price's land. Daddy has built a stout, primitive but snug family home in the middle of a dense copse that was once part of a farm owned by Daniel and Cathy's mum, who sold up after she spent all her money and then left the area. Life is rich in its simplicity and individualism. Life follows the patterns and rhythms of nature.

That the idyll can't last is a given. You know that something has gone horribly wrong from short sections set in the present that are interspersed with the main narrative. The latter tells of how the family came to the plot of land and how relations with Mr Price deteriorate.

Daddy, nearly seven-foot tall, used to work for Price as a bare-knuckle fighter and rent collector. The emotional complexities of his and Price's previously deeply entwined lives are what resurface and drive the tragic events that conclude the book.

The novel occupies a curious fictional and generic space. Neither quite real nor made up. There are echoes of contemporary Britain. The style is both naturalistic - sometimes beautifully, lyrically so - and that of a folk tale. There are long passages of narrative and not that much dialogue. While there is conceptual plot-arc suspense there is often not too much powering the story at scene-level other than the charm and vigor of the prose. One could imagine readers giving up, as I almost did. When characters do speak, they often do so in long blocky monologues, filling in events that have happened off-stage. I wasn't sure whether this was early-career writing or an intentional part of the folk tale style.

Yet, the novel is something of a triumph. You can tell that Mozley knows what she is about, even if she stretches scenes and sections - and patience -  almost to the limit, at times. You know she has a novelist's stamina and is thoroughgoing. I think this is, despite its faults, a very striking and special book. Mozley is definitely one to watch.

--

Though not a Theresa May fan, I was impressed by her article on the new Domestic Violence Bill in the Guardian, entitled, 'Our new domestic violence bill will outlaw economic and physical abuse'.
For me, one paragraph stood out:

'Not all abusive behaviour is physical. Controlling, manipulative and verbally abusive behaviour ruins lives and means thousands end up isolated, living in fear. So for the first time, the bill will provide a statutory definition of domestic abuse that includes economic abuse, alongside other non-physical abuse.'

If the new bill confronts the misery caused by non-physical and economic abuse, it will be very welcome.

I've written about my own experiences in this blog and elsewhere. I am mindful, though, that I was in a privileged position: a very good education; a significant degree of financial independence. Yet still the reach of the abusive behaviour was long and devastating, even when I had moved away. What horrifies me is what life must be like for those who are trapped and cannot escape.

--

On Saturday I read a letter that I inherited that confirmed, painfully, something that I had suspected for many years.

As at other times I wondered why I feel driven to get at the truth, even though doing so causes the extension of suffering.

On Sunday, when listening to the Australian novelist Richard Flanagan on Radio 3's Private Passions, I heard an answer that made sense to me. He was talking about a logging scandal in Tasmania that he had protested about. It involved politics and big business and was causing the destruction of areas of rain forest. In the context of the slow process of people trying to find out what was really happening, Flanagan said (00:45:27):

'The truth is slow but it's inexorable and...people have a profound hunger for the truth that's as real as their hunger for food and water and sex - it's a fundamental need in us.'

--

Did a spot of DIY data recovery the other day after the hard drive of my laptop crashed. Used Recuva software and Bipra USB 2.0 to SATA/IDE Adapter Kit with Power Adapter for 2.5/3.5/5.25 inch SATA or IDE Drive. Both excellent!

Saturday, 3 March 2018

snow!


























The village was cut off on Friday. No 19 buses; roads blocked by stalled cars or inundated by drifts. Some 4x4s got through, probably.

Today snow ploughs have been out and traffic is passing along the streets again. It was quiet and still yesterday.

Apart from in the pubs. When I took our dog for a walk at about five-thirty, I could hear the voices and see how full the rooms were through the steamed up windows.

When later we went for a pint the snow made the night air excited and you could hear it in everyone's voices. I could feel echoes of feelings from snowfalls over the decades.

This morning the shelves in the Co-Op were bare, where there should have been fresh veg, fruit, meats, pizzas, cheeses and milk.

Last night there were ice-needles beneath the stone window ledges but this afternoon the snow is dripping and slipping onto the white and grime on the pavements.

In the garden drifts remain. Plants and ornaments are hidden up to a certain height. Fieldfares have come to feed, seeing off blackbirds and thrushes. I hope the frogs are all right beneath the thick ice.

Yesterday I worked at home. Accessing systems by virtual private network and apps. I might have been in my Oxford office, were it not for the dog snoozing by my feet.

Sunday, 25 February 2018

east wind, defining sunshine, the horseman and the wanderers by tim pears - spring reading!























Bitterly cold east wind. Yet there is also amazingly rich and defining sunshine.

Snowdrops are beginning to go over in the garden. Crocuses are in their prime.

Read a review in the TLS the other day of Tim Pears' latest novel The Wanderers, the second part of a trilogy that began with The Horseman. I have to confess that in the midst of last year's busy-ness, I missed the publication of the latter novel and am now really pleased to have been alerted to both. (Links above take you to Guardian reviews of the books.)

Set in the West Country during the early part of the twentieth century, the novels sound intensely alluring, with their promised evocations of the countryside and rural ways of life. Oxford vacations are never that much less busy than term times but there is perhaps a fraction or two of time to spare in the evenings and at weekends. I have found my spring reading!