Saturday, 22 July 2017

heavy rain, as things should be, early autumn colour, first courgettes, transcendence























Astonishingly heavy rain yesterday evening and today.

One of the heaviest bursts happened just as I was stepping off the bus. Had to place the umbrella so that it protected the photocopies for the summer school rather than me. I got soaked. As it should be, though.

No chance of allotmenting today, so I went on a cycle ride. After the drought, there is a lot of early autumn colour - not least, the leaves of the (stressed) horse chestnuts that line the road between Bampton and Clanfield.

The level in the frog pond has risen considerably. Hooray!

Had our first courgettes mid-week.

Now, a poem. Like others posted on jtns, it's a work in progress and may change.

Transcendence

The bowl turns, transparent:

A room in a simple cottage,
Stout floorboards, wooden furniture...

The bowl turns:

Light streaming through mullions...

The bowl turns, like magic:

Walls fading
Gently
Out and into
A sunny paradise beyond.

--

I step through the rooms:

Across the boards,
Along the chequerboard passage,
Past the bookcase I made
Nearly thirty years ago,
Bespoke, for a flat we rented
(That it fitted here seemed
Meant to be)...

Past our favourite print -
Tall winter trees, branches stretched
Like arms,
Like a cross,
A red horse-drawn cart below
And bowed men
In farmers' coats and tweed caps,
Unloading turnips;
Beyond, the ground falling away
Into our valley,
The sight we first saw,
As we drove to view our cottage;
Of course, not our valley
But one like it;
Our valley, nevertheless...

Out onto the flagstones
That we brought from a garden
In Oxford, in twos and threes,
Grinding the Golf's axle...

Past the bird feeders
And the seeds scattered beneath them
That mice nibble at dawn
And a hedgehog has recently
Started visiting at dusk -
The innocence of watching this strange animal
Together;
The anxiety when walking
Beside the road next morning...

Across the lawn and
Along the serpentine path...

Espallied apple trees,
Laden with fruit,
Arms stretched...

A broad-leaved, spear-shaped
Bush, that is golden,
Summer and winter...

A mock orange,
Whose myriad white flowers
Fill the garden with
Their scent in May...

Over the mound that Billy
Made with earth from the pond,
Then across the stepping stones,
The water's surface nipped
By tadpoles,
The lily pads covering the deep side,
Some arced above others,
Engaged in an imperceptibly
Fierce struggle to reach the light...

Ahead, the table and chairs,
Where we sit in the summer evenings...

We listen to the church bell,
Ringing the hour,
To the surprised cooing of pigeons,
The eek of bats,
The scream of swifts...

Swifts we look out for -
Like sailors seeking landfall -
Who make the summer right when they
Arrive, for reasons I cannot articulate
And whose departure we dread...

Another year passed, maybe...

--

In the museum, the bowl turns, transparent:

Walls fading
Gently -
Out and into,
A sunny paradise beyond?

--

The garden is here;
The garden is now;
The garden is all there is.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

flowering rush - in flower, englishness























Saw these flowering rushes - in flower - on my way to work last week. They are growing in the shallows of the grebe pool on the gently-flowing branch of the Thames that passes between Port Meadow and Fiddler's Island.

A rare sighting, these plants, in flower! I've only ever seen them twice before - one when J and I were walking along the Thames path near Grandpont in about 1988 and once when we were walking the Thames path from Tadpole Bridge to Shifford Lock. They flower and never seem to appear again in the same spot.

We have a flowering rush plant in our pond. It hasn't yet flowered and it's been there for three years. I should show it this photo - Look, this is what you should be doing!

A great review of what sounds like a great book in the Sunday Times today. The book is The Last Wolf: The hidden springs of Englishness by Robert Winder (Little, Brown, 9781408707807). The reviewer, Dominic Sandbrook. I especially liked Winder's definition of Englishness, as summarised by Sandbrook: 'Englishness is an "approach", a "knack" of "negotiating a path between extremes": land and sea, city and countryside, earnest and frivolous, new and old. To be English is to flirt with excess, but always to return to the "sensible middle ground".' (Made by the Rain, review by Dominic Sandbrook, Sunday Times Culture, 16 July 2017.)

Monday, 10 July 2017

compasses inn, moonlight, silent night, punting, upton smokery, barrington park, blackcurrants, garden





Had a wonderful time in Wiltshire at the Compasses Inn, Lower Chicksgrove, with lunchtime expeditions to the Beckford Arms and the timeless Howard's House Hotel. It was hot walking over to them, though!

Back in Oxford, there was punting and lunch at the Cherwell Boathouse.

In Wiltshire, it was lovely to wander along the lane after supper. It was still so light, even at 10 pm, and so silent.

Some delicious lunches in the garden at home too, with ingredients bought from the Upton Smokery (visited en route to walking on the Barrington Park Estate - excellent wild flower banks).




Extremely rested and refreshed now.

The allotment is looking better (despite the scorching drought), after a productive morning up there last week before we went away. Amongst other things, I harvested the blackcurrants. It was fun to have thought through a pruning strategy early in the year and to have seen this bear bigger and more juicy fruits. Some things - runners and courgettes particularly - are slow this year but we have terrific potatoes and spinach. And mangetout peas from the garden.

Loved the readings at the MSt showcase!




Friday, 30 June 2017

forked tree, enchanted forest, tranquil thames, mst gr, neglected allotment..., powysland by tim blanchard






This tree that I pass most days, I hadn't really noticed until this week. It's partly hidden from the path but then I would have thought that it would have been even more striking in the bare winter and early spring.

Head full of too many other things, obviously.

It's a tall, many-stemmed tree, perched on its forked trunk - and there's a savage face at the base of them.

Altogether, a sinuous, almost writhing, web-footed - so-many-things-contained-in-it - being.

A little further on, there was a melting toadstool.























Quite the enchanted forest, really!

Only when I got to the tranquillity of the Thames beyond the station did things calm down.



A busy week? Goes without saying. The MSt Guided Retreat this weekend, so there's been lots of reading to do - on the bus and in the evenings. Rewarding reading, though. I'm looking forward to seeing the students for the last time and to listening to the end-of-course showcase readings they all give on Monday night.

The allotment has been a touch neglected, though.

Meanwhile, I was sent a link earlier in the week to a page on the website of Unbound, the excellent crowd-funding publisher, for a book on the wonderful, extraordinary John Cowper Powys. It's title is, Powysland: The Greatest Writer You've Never Heard Of, And What We Can Learn From Him and it's by member of the Powys Society, Tim Blanchard. Worth checking out. Worth sponsoring, if you have the spare cash!

Sunday, 25 June 2017

time!, heat wave, cooler now, courgettes and pumpkins, blackcurrants







Another busy week. Where does the time go!

Not helped by the heat wave. It was lovely to be out in the sun but sleeping at night was difficult. Cooler now, though.

Planted most of the rest of the courgettes and pumpkins today. They have been growing in the cold frame at home up to now.

Blackcurrants almost ready to pick.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

hot, library, end of term and beginning of the long vac, gr, summer school, geese












Blisteringly hot today - at least in the afternoon. The morning walk - I was working at the library today - was bearable.

The Enquiry Room was itself fine this morning. We congratulated ourselves on how cool it was. But after lunch things warmed up and when I walked to the bus stop after work, the heat was unmerciful.

So pleased to be home.

The end of Trinity Eighth Week at Oxford. The end of term and the beginning of the Long Vac. Yet Oxford never sleeps, especially at the Department for Continuing Education, where things are just beginning to hot up. The master's Graduate Retreat. The Summer School at Exeter College. A pleasure both.

Many geese on the Thames by Bossom's Boatyard.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

the open gate

[edited version]

I pass an open gate,
An unaccustomed window in high fencing.
Two men, mug in hand,
Look up the bank at
Heaps of earth, a barrow,
Spades.

One, the boss,
Downs his drink,
Nods and says,
No use standing around.

How often did I see men
Do similar in my childhood?
See my dad, or Doug
The builder.
Or Reuben or Norman
On the farm.

I see the same elsewhere in Oxford,
In Bampton. We've seen it
On holiday, even when we've not
Known the language.
A universal moment
On a summer morning.

Timeless, trivially-essentially
Human.