Friday, 30 August 2013

redshank, chimney meadows, morris' manor, posts revisited, more holiday reading, tales out of school





































Walked to Shifford Lock on Wednesday (top four photos) and to Kelmscott from Grafton Lock yesterday. Lovely to see lots of redshank in flower on the edges of Chimney Meadows, close by the Thames (top photo). The summer views along that stretch of the river now are so different to those snowy ones on 27th December 2010.

Meanwhile, a fresh crop of reeds are growing just below William Morris' manor--last season's were photographed on this walk on 7th April this year.

A couple of things relating to pics from recent posts. According to my brother-in-law, linseed is left on the field for several weeks after ripening so that the stalks soften down (see preceding post). They are like wire otherwise and would be hard to harvest. Also, looking at that photo of what I referred to as plums (three posts back), I can see I was wrong--they must be some sort of crab apple.

Enjoying The Penguin History of Latin America by Edwin Williamson, which is such a readable book to dip into. Williamson's style is old-fashioned enough to have immediate authority but contemporary enough to be immediately accessible. He also tells a good story, his narratives carrying you along as he picks out telling details and guides you through the history rather than forcing his opinions upon you. There is plenty of space in which to make up your own mind about what happened. I like his occasional understatements. At one point he writes of Hernán Cortés, 'But on his return to Tenochtitlán he found the Spaniards at bay and the Aztecs in a belligerent mood.' I imagine they were furious!

Benjamin Taylor's Naples Declared is hugely enjoyable too. His prose reminds me of Jan Morris' in her Oxford and Venice books. It is described on the back cover as 'a work of voluptuous erudition', although this phrase suggests to me that the narrative might be overly rich, which it certainly isn't. The narrative is light and beguilingly simple, the erudition coming into play with the choice of just the right unusual word or Italian phrase being used sparingly here and there.

Back in 1996 I reviewed Taylor's episodic novel Tales Out of School for the Time Literary Supplement. My concluding para went as follows: 'The novel's form necessitates a pared-down style, yet its effects are, by turns, dryly humorous and moving, learned and colloquial, the tone lyrical, and the descriptions richly suggestive, particularly of landscape. Taylor's vision is an idealistic one, but it is none the less effective.'

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

lovely walk, linseed, al fresco, penguin history of la

































Lovely walk into the Thames Valley from the village this morning. Intrigued to see the linseed fields ready for harvest - see pic of one of these fields in flower earlier in the year.

Meanwhile, al fresco breakfast and lunch in the garden. Plus reading The Penguin History of Latin America - an extra on the holiday book list.
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A Conscious Englishman by Magaret Keeping - StreetBooks Kindle edition published 16.08.13 - visit http://www.streetbooks.co.uk for details

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Sunday, 25 August 2013

lots of sleep, wayfaring tree, guelder rose, flowering rush










Amazing to be on holiday--with lots of sleep last night (catching up after those busy weeks). Strange dreams, though.

Lovely walk to Buckland from Tadpole Bridge.

Excellent glimpses of wayfaring tree (top two photos) and guelder rose (third from top), not to mention flowering rush, (the fourth one). Last of these, particularly exciting. A very occasional sight, this plant is slender and beautiful. The last one I saw was growing on silt on a bend of the Thames not far from the old gas works below Osney back in 1989.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

to grow old like roy

















On holiday for a week or so (that 'or so' being a vital 48 hours)! Feeling at a bit of a loose end and having to tell myself that I'm on holiday, nevertheless.

Saw these plums overhanging the wall of Broadwell churchyard when cycling this morning. This was the churchyard where I took a picture of the snow in late March.

Looking forward to some holiday reading. On the list are: finishing off second reading of Remembering Che, My Life with Che Guevara by Aleida March; Naples Declared, A Walk Around the Bay by Benjamin Taylor; Albert Angelo by BS Johnson; A Girl is a Half-formed Thing by Eimear McBride; The Murderer Said Shalom by Leonard Stein (who I met at Exeter College this summer and who gave me a copy of his book).

It's been quite a week trying to get everything done at the library and finishing the creative writing marking. It was also the week that the Kindle edition of A Conscious Englishman was published! Meanwhile, Margaret Keeping's reading at the Department for Continuing Education's Open Day is fully booked, as is my session, Fiction reader--fiction writer. Excellent sessions still have places available, though. A fantastic day in prospect!

Not all the week was spent working. Loved listening to one or two tracks from Slow Focus on the bus when I took a break. What an album!

The trip down to the pub late-ish last night after the work was done was meant to be a celebration of the start of the holiday, which it was, but this was tempered by the news of the death of Roy, a wonderful man, who made us feel so welcome when we moved here in 2001. He had been ill for a little while but the shock of hearing he had died was great. I don't think, however, that he would have wished for his many friends to be sad for too long. He was a man who seemed to enjoy every moment of each day and was fascinated by people. He had lived a long time but looked way younger than he was. He also appeared incredibly fit and agile, even when he was ill and we didn't know it. A dear man whose way of looking at the world drew your attention to new things, made you join with him in his humour and enriched you. If only I could grow old like that.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

best part of the day, post summer school, bill's, a conscious englishman ebook, notting hill, walker evans at moma, spider, moles


















Enjoyed the best part of the day when I went out cycling--fresh and bright, if overcast. After that it got darker and darker before the drizzle set in.

I've been at a bit of a loose end since the summer school finished, although I needed some space. Work at the libraries has been good meanwhile, particularly the preparations for the coming term and the start of the new academic year.

On Thursday, there was a leaving drinks party at the library hosted by the graduate trainees, followed by supper at Bill's in St Michael Street. A good venue and a really lovely evening!

Today I've been working on the ebook edition of A Conscious Englishman, which will be out soon.

I'll be having some time off over the coming weeks, which I'm looking forward to. I hope to catch up on reading and some of my own work.

During the week we watched Notting Hill. I'd never seen it before. I did enjoy it--very much--although its world seemed pretty dated. Before the recession and all that.

A friend posted a link on Facebook on Tuesday to an article about an exhibition of photographs by the pioneering photo-journalist Walker Evans at New York MOMA. Walker Evans American Photographs celebrates the 75th anniversary of the first exhibition that the museum devoted to a sole photographer and includes 60 of the original 100 images. Check out the amazing selection of pictures accompanying the article.

At the risk of bathos, the top photo above is of a spider and its web in a lime tree near the Oxford canal.

Oh, and moles in west Oxfordshire tend to be slightly bigger than their cousins elsewhere in the British Isles.

Friday, 9 August 2013

end of summer school, can't quite believe, lie-in, friend's 90th

















The summer school at Exeter College is drawing to a close. The last assignment feedback has been given and later there will be drinks on the lawn and dinner in hall.

The three weeks have passed extraordinarily quickly and tomorrow all the students will leave the college and head home. I must say, I have loved working with both groups and can't quite believe that I won't be seeing them for more seminars. I hope that they have got as much out of the series as I have.

A lie-in tomorrow, perhaps. Although there is a friend's 90th birthday lunch to look forward to.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

harvest time, lords and ladies, barley, exeter college summer school, rewley's 135th


















Harvest time brings a frisson of autumn in the ruby lords and ladies berries and the dry ripened barley, which will soon give way to cultivated soil and new-sown seed.

I photographed the lords and ladies at the base of this tree (or maybe it was one of its neighbours) the year before last (30th July). Not sure whether these ones will grow taller or remain as they are.

I was out cycling at about 7 am this morning, after having been working for an hour or so. These are busy weeks as far as creative writing teaching is concerned, not least because of the summer school at Exeter College--which I am enjoying immensely. Two wonderful groups of students!

Meanwhile, I've signed up to give a public seminar on Thursday 26th September at 10 am, Rewley House. This will be my contribution to Continuing Education's open day, which takes place this year on the 135th anniversary of the founding of the department. Looking forward to this event! Details soon.