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. 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 nightmares 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, rural west Oxfordshire, where I live, the seasons and the countryside, walking and cycling) and I hope that these, together with their accompanying photos, are enjoyable and positive. In February 2020, jtns will be ten years old and there will be no further posts. It will then become a contained work of life-writing about me and the past ten years of my life. Frank, December 2019

Saturday, 29 September 2018

anna beer's patriot or traitor: the life and death of sir walter ralegh, osney memories























Outstanding in-depth Times review today of my friend and colleague Anna Beer's Patriot or Traitor: The Life and Death of Sir Walter Ralegh.

Today's post first appeared on the jtns Instagram account earlier (above photo: Osney allotments from across the Thames).

It's a long time ago that we left Osney Island, where we were members of the local allotment association. In those days I was a citizen of west Oxford, in between leaving the University and being reclaimed by it to work as a librarian and to teach. The Island was a different world to ts expensive exclusive present incarnation. There were two pubs and a bakery-cum-village shop. Memories of collecting the bread early in the morning and the smell of the baking in the frosty air. And the floury-browed baker in his cap and apron. There were residents who had been born on the Island. The author John Wain used to walk to the Waterman's Arms from Wolvercote for a pint - his Where the Rivers Meet trilogy was about the two sons of a fictional Waterman's lanlord, one a don the other working at the car plant at Cowley pre WWII. Parts of my first novel were also set in a fictional Waterman's. Coincidentally it was to be published by an imprint founded by John Wain's son. The allotments flooded every second or third spring and the Thames seemed to bring fertility. We were members of the committee and each September I would help take the rents, recording the payments in a ledger. Our allotment neighbour was a former trades unionist and City Mayor. We learnt much from him about local politics and local history. I think he hoped I might go into local politics and I attended some meetings. But I'm not a political person. I'm a floating voter - a much derided sort of voter. Yet democracy assumes floating voters and what would it be without them?

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.