Welcome to justthoughtsnstuff

Welcome to jtns, which I've been writing since 2010. Most of its 600 plus posts are about day to day things - highlights from the previous week, books read, places visited - together with photos of what I've seen. There are some posts, though, that deal with a difficult subject - obsessional emotional and economic abuse that went on for several decades and that came to a head in autumn 2010. Writing jtns became in part a way of coping with the consequences of what happened and exploring them openly. This aspect of the blog is discussed in JTNS, An Introduction and Life-Writing Talk, with Reference to Trust: A family story. Now that the pain of the past years is easing (after many false dawns, when I thought it had finally passed), the frequency of the posts is lessening and in 2020, when jtns will be ten years old, they will stop. I hope that you enjoy the photos and reading the happier posts (the majority) and take a little from them. Frank, October 2018

Saturday, 20 April 2019

dandelions, cycle ride

They may be the scourge of lawnkeepers - and allotmenteers, it has to be said - but along the verges dandelions are gorgeous at this time of year!

Hugely enjoyable cycle ride towards the Thames and beside the Great Brook. The air cooled by the north-easterly breeze and the sunlight bright and life-full.

Monday, 15 April 2019

jane eyre, lexicon of terror, 1950s films, trust: a family story, joint committee

Finished Jane Eyre the other day. Hard to read the novel in the way I once did in the light of Wide Sargasso Sea but for all its anachronistic faults (which are uncomfortable to read) - not to mention its narrator's occasional smugness - it is a magnificent story. And Jane is a complex, comprehensively written character - her humanity exists in her flaws as much as her strengths.

Its narrative texture is rich and varied. The scenes that evoke the British countryside are vibrant and beautifully written. As, now, a professional creative writer, I was particularly fascinated by the St John Rivers sections. I'd not been able to articulate the observations years ago that I might make today, though the chapters did seem distinct. There is one scene especially - at Jane's cottage beside the school, when St John calls on her and the characters speak without inhibition (and speech tags). Just back and forth. Just people chatting - in styles so different to the more formal language at Thornfield. The setting done with perfect simplicity and economy. So modern. So kitchen sink, in a way. (A stone sink, of course.)

Now I have moved on to the utterly compelling - and shocking - A Lexicon of Terror by Marguerite Feitlowitz, which examines the Dirty War in Argentina in the mid seventies and early eighties.

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Without a DVD to watch a month or so ago, we came across this site - The 100 Best Movies of the 1950s - and have been immersed in 1950s films ever since: The Barefoot Contessa, Sabrina, Journey to Italy and Born Yesterday thus far. A supposedly lost, grey decade comes to life. Bogart philosophical, wise and compassionate in ways not previously suspected. George Sanders, the awkward, cold British male, who seems as uncomfortably apposite now as in the 'post war' era.

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Had some time to work on Trust: A family story during the past fortnight. The process of rewriting and editing this work must seem so drawn out to the onlooker - which indeed it is. I have so little spare writing time in between library work and teaching. But I have made time this year - and will make more over the coming months. I am pleased with the major structural changes and rewriting I did last year. While there is further strengthening to be done, this is proving quite straightforward to do and - hey - the end really is in sight.

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Very pleased that the Joint Committee on the Draft Domestic Abuse Bill is meeting and taking the bill forward, despite the all consuming demands of Brexit.

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Meantime, some exotic tulips have popped up in the garden.

Saturday, 23 March 2019

stroll, amble, spring, retreat

























A stroll to the Bell at Langford along Calcroft Lane (aka the gated road) early in the week. Well, not quite - bus to Clanfield then the walk. Then a longer walk back - even longer than planned, what with the wrong turn (farmer kind to set us on the right path, despite us disturbing breeding snipe - I didn't know they did breed round here, just overwintered).

An amble round the Barrington Estate the next day.

Spring is definitely springing.

MSt in Creative Writing guided retreat this weekend.

Monday, 18 March 2019

violets, my oxford: a memoir by catherine haines























Saw this gorgeous bank of violets on the outskirts of the village the other weekend, as we came back from a Sunday walk.

Really thrilled that a life-writing work by a former student has just been published. My Oxford: A memoir by Catherine Haines was the winner the the New Welsh Writing Awards (Aberystwyth University Prize for a Memoir) in 2017 and is now out in paperback and Kindle, under the New Welsh Review's Rarebytes imprint.

Saturday, 16 March 2019

2nd anniversary of the streetbooks launch party for facing the strange by sb sweeney



















Two years ago today, StreetBooks held the launch party at Blackwell's Oxford for Facing the Strange by SB Sweeney. It was a brilliant evening, with a reading from the novel by Roger Ashton-Griffiths, a video reading by the author (excellent psychedelic backgrounds) and music from David Rowland. Read the jtns post about the event.

This is what I said about the novel two years ago: At one level Facing the Strange is uncompromising, tough. It deals with difficult subjects, including the self-deception of addiction and family breakdown. But then there is the Becketian comedy in the face of adversity and the insight into people. Above all it's about people. No matter how these men and women in the book are - whether at their best or at their worst - they are written about with compassion and humanity. It's a story of vividly realised places - Preston, London, Ireland, North Yorkshire, Somerset. It's a novel of polyphony - of a wide range of beautifully rendered voices. Facing the Strange is a book that asks challenging questions about where we have come from and where we are now.

Hugely proud to have played a part in bringing this novel to readers. If you haven't read it, try the Kindle ebook on Amazon - UK, US.

For more information about the novel and its author, visit the SB Sweeney and StreetBooks websites. You can also follow SB Sweeney on Twitter.

And here's some more praise for the novel:

'SB Sweeney writes with a clarity and wit that brings to life the less glossy side of the eighties: a world of squats, bedroom bands and cheap drugs, where a CV most likely meant a pint of cider and Vimto. The intriguing and intertwining tales make an addictive read.'  Deb Googe: My Bloody Valentine and The Thurston Moore Group

'One great long drunken rambling guitar solo of a novel!'  Tim Pears

'It's La bohème meets Trainspotting, with the structure of a dream; a hole in the wall of the ordinary, an extraordinary landscape beyond.'  Roger Ashton-Griffiths: Actor and Writer

'Facing the Strange is a kaleidoscope of intertwined lives told with verve, humour and - despite its darker themes - lightness of touch.'  Mary Lucille Hindmarch, The Oxford Times

'SB Sweeney's novel is a rollicking joy ride from start to finish. It's hard to believe, in fact that this is a debut novel, so adept is he at conveying the brutal beauty of life's searing highs... crashing lows... and life in between... It is both heart-breaking and life-affirming.'  Liz Nicholls, Round & About Magazine

Saturday, 23 February 2019

jtns' ninth birthday, moonlight, sunlight, tutes, frogs, new glasses























On Wednesday 20th February it was jtns' ninth birthday. The photo above is perhaps a rather dark image for the first post of the blog's tenth year - especially on a day that is alive with spring sunlight - but the sight of the trees and moon from our bedroom window last night was breathtaking.

An earlyish start this morning before heading into Oxford for assignment tutorials. Great to be spending time discussing the students' hard work.

Back in the village, the daffodils ringing the bases of the limes in our street have stalled these past few weeks since I first mentioned them. Perhaps today will bring them into flower.

Saw a frog in our pond this morning by torchlight as I went to the woodshed to collect logs. The frogs have been fast asleep, so far as I can tell, till now.

This morning, while eating toast and J's scrummy marmalade, I was idly scanning an article about donations to the new 'political party' and came to a reference to a recent survey of voting intentions carried out by, as I read it, Opium Research. A wacky name for a pollster, I thought, before realising it was 'Opinion'. New glasses needed...

Saturday, 9 February 2019

snowfalls, amazing walk, lots going on, daffodils, powering towards spring

























Big snowfalls just over a week ago but not as bad as last year's and the buses kept going.

Gloomy to begin with, when the snow fell, but last Sunday we had an amazing walk across the white fields before the thaw.

Busy time of term. Lots going on at the libraries and as far as teaching is concerned.

The daffodils round the bases of the limes in our street are about a quarter of their way up and will soon be out if the weather is favourable.

Snow may fall and, last night and today, gales may blow but the year is powering towards spring.

Friday, 25 January 2019

snow, where did the super blood wolf moon get to?, burn's night, consultation response and draft bill























Huge snowflakes fell on Tuesday afternoon but didn't settle as much as expected. Even so there was a satisfyingly snowy dusting in Raleigh Park the following morning.

Full term in full swing.

Super blood wolf moon spotting in west Oxfordshire was a non-starter, although as I walked up the garden path the following morning to get the logs for later, the sky was clear-bright, with superb views of the non-super blood wolf moon...

Burn's Night supper tomorrow (a day late, of course). The haggis is in the fridge and the bottle of Cairn O'Mohr oak leaf wine is in.

Was pleased that the Government's domestic abuse consultation response and draft bill was published last Monday. I'd feared that it would be thrown disastrously off course by Brexit. I found it a very moving document to read. I hope its measures soon begin to help victims. I also hope that it will help people on the outside to identify the signs of abuse.

Saturday, 12 January 2019

a few days off, old man's bridge, great tew, memory lane, bell at langford, phantom thread, mobile mini rant...























A few days off.

Two six-mile walks - one from the village, taking in Rushey Lock and Old Man's Bridge (shown in photo), the other through the countryside to the east of Great Tew (following a route recommended by the Times a few weeks ago).

The latter a trip down memory lane, ending as it did with a visit to the Falkland Arms. A pub we used to go to when we first met in the mid-1980s and which I had known for several years before that. Forty years ago, almost, since I first visited it... Gosh!

And it's not changed that much thankfully, although it's definitely an upmarket country pub nowadays, whereas all those years ago it was simply a local where you could have a pint and a bag of peanuts - albeit in an historic building. One that was just being itself. Now it's somewhat self-aware. A gastro pub, no doubt. A place where you might mingle with celebs, what with Soho Farmhouse up the road and every once-tumbled-down farmhouse now done up to the nines!

But it was lovely that there was enough of the old place left to take you back.

A trip to the Bell at Langford for lunch today - delicious food.

Meantime, watching Phantom Thread on DVD (with the option of steaming on mobile). Talking of which, the OS map we used at Great Tew could be downloaded to mobile - instead of me struggling with the folds as the light faded (my choice yesterday). There was none of this mobile business forty years ago, I can tell you, and we were all the better off... Apart from blogs, obviously!