Sunday, 24 February 2013

twickenham, old boys match, freezing, snowdrops, hedging




















Excellent afternoon at Twickenham yesterday, watching the England-France match. My first time at the stadium--wonderful atmosphere but unbelievable to think that there might have been as many as 82,000 people there. In the taxi back to Bampton from Witney last night, the driver asked what the stadium's capacity was and as I said the figure, I thought, I must have got that wrong, it can't be that many. But it is!

I used to play rugby when I was at Heatherdown and Stowe but didn't continue with it after school, apart from an old boys match when I was about twenty (a game that almost finished me off--a year or so of student life had left me as unfit as anything).

Another striking thing about yesterday's game was how straightforward and giving the crowd were. Just 82,000 people out to enjoy themselves!

Meanwhile, it's freezing in the west Oxfordshire countryside. A cold easterly wind that seemed to modify its direction with every turn I made when cycling this morning so that I was always heading into it. Lots of snowdrops out, though, including the ones above on a verge just outside Black Bourton. The hedging and tree cutting at Alvescot continues.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

cycling, misty morning, catching up, moss, nests, ace reviewed, weekend



















Good to be cycling again. Ice and work commitments have meant I've not been out on the bike for a couple of weeks.

Today was misty--thicker in some places than others, as the two pics above show.

Yesterday, I enjoyed catching up with two friends who I first met when I worked with them on Oxford creative writing courses. Lunch at Brown's with one and drinks at the Randolph with another. It was great to see them and hear their news. I say 'first met' but in one case, yesterday was the first time we had met face-to-face because the course I taught was online and we have only kept in touch by email and Facebook since. Wonderful to see him and hear his voice.

Meanwhile, when I went to the shed to get the bike this morning, I noticed clumps of moss scattered across the path. Evidently excellent nesting material!

On Thursday there was a good review of A Conscious Englishman in the Oxford Times--also online. Great that the novel is selling well and that there is already a lot of very complimentary feedback from readers. All down to Margaret Keeping's wonderful story-telling and gift for natural description.

Some online teaching and assignment marking this weekend. Also a Skype tutorial with a student in Japan. Plus some time for relaxation, of course!

Sunday, 10 February 2013

margaret keeping on the bill heine show, radio oxford; excellent reader reviews of a conscious englishman on amazon















Margaret Keeping, author of A Conscious Englishman, appeared on BBC Oxford's Bill Heine programme earlier today. She was guest newspaper reviewer for the first hour of the show. You can listen to the programme on the iPlayer over the next 7 days.

Some excellent reader reviews of A Conscious Englishman on Amazon btw.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

a conscious englishman by margaret keeping published today























I'm very proud that A Conscious Englishman by Margaret Keeping is officially published today by StreetBooks.

I've followed the novel's development over several years and always hoped that one day StreetBooks would be able to publish it. The novel's subject, Edward Thomas, has been important to me since the 1990s when I began reading his poetry during the turbulent family times that I have written about elsewhere in this blog. In those days I desperately wanted the family problems to be resolved and dreamt of moving out of Oxford to the countryside. Late at night I would read Thomas' poetry or look at John Nash's paintings and dream of another life. Well, we did move and when I walk through the lanes and fields round Bampton, I am reminded of the images in the poems and paintings and am grateful for the help they gave me to get through that difficult period.

The novel is a wonderful rendering of the last years of Thomas' life. It is told from both Thomas' point of view and that of his wife, Helen. To say that Thomas is the novel's subject is, to an extent, misleading because it neglects Helen's perspective, which is in many ways the book's great strength and is essential for an understanding of the poet. The novel brings the two people's stories together in a brilliantly accessible form that is compelling, beautiful and poignant.

I have been struck by the number of people who have already read the book who say they cried at the end. The ending is very moving.

The novel is available from the StreetBooks website and can also be ordered from bookshops and bought from online retailers (ISBN 978-0-9564242-3-5).

'[Margaret Keeping's] writing is very assured and she has the necessary eye for place, detail, weather and seasons to write about Edward Thomas...especially like the way she's shown the origins of the poems in his observations, and her depiction of the complicated relationships between the main characters. I hope the book will reach the wide audience it deserves and feel sure that many others will enjoy it as much as I have.' Linda Newbery, author of Set in Stone

Sunday, 3 February 2013

moon, crows and snowdrops, ribs, a conscious englishman, edward thomas, publishing my edward thomas




















Yesterday, the sun shone and the countryside round Bampton really cheered up.

Beside the spire of St Peter and St Paul's, Broadwell, the moon was still out at 8 o'clock in the morning and crows flew in front of it (spot the moon and crows!) and there were snowdrops in the churchyard.

Today, the fields were stark, the trees and hedges so obviously picked clean, the gate in the picture, almost hidden in summer by foliage, now laid bare like ribs on a carcass.

Meanwhile, the official publication of A Conscious Englishman by Margaret Keeping nears--Thursday 7th February.

As readers of this blog will know, the novel is about the last years of World War I poet Edward Thomas' life. It's a terrific read. And you can find a huge amount of extra information about the poet at the author's excellent blog, Publishing my Edward Thomas.

Today, appropriately, given the weather, is a quiet day, catching up on sleep and rest after a hectic week.