Monday, 28 April 2014

working late, week off, planting, quartet, cowslips, ace reprint with corrections

















Not due at the library till 11 am because I'm working late this evening.

Had last week off - a very refreshing break.

Was pleased that I could fork through the allotment despite the showers and get some things planted (shallots, onions, rhubarb and strawberries yesterday).

Lovely walks and cycle rides and one or two meals out. Also really enjoyed watching the film Quartet, which is about a home for retired musicians and stars Maggie Smith, Tom Courtenay, Billy Connolly and Pauline Collins. Made me wonder if there was a home for retired librarians or writers...

Saw these cowslips when cycling along Calcroft Lane (aka the gated road) on Saturday.

Have just signed off the updated edition of A Conscious Englishman (properly speaking, a reprint with corrections).

Friday, 25 April 2014

thames valley, rain, downton abbey series five, way back in 2010



















Had a lovely walk into the Thames Valley this morning.

The rain started just as we got back to the village - part of which is once again the set for Downton Abbey. Perhaps not the most glamorous day to be filming. Hard to believe that this is Series Five. Seems no time at all since we caught our first glimpses of an unknown TV drama being made here - way back in 2010.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

belated happy easter!, wild fritillary



















Some Easter pics, including one of a wild fritillary - as opposed to the garden sort (see post of a few weeks ago for more about these plants and their association with Oxford and the Thames Valley: http://justthoughtsnstuff.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/fritillaries-john-wain-where-rivers.html).

Belated Happy Easter!

Sunday, 20 April 2014

caterpillars, bright star

















Bampton is under attack. These caterpillars are eating everything in sight. But what are they - any ideas? The Oxford butterfly and moth book left us none the wiser.

More digging on the allotment earlier until the rain started.

Btw watched Bright Star the other day. What an AMAZING film. Beautiful. Loved the space it allowed itself in which to explore the relationship between Fanny Brawne and Keats. Outstanding!
--
Frank Egerton

Visit http://www.justthoughtsnstuff.com

Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone

Friday, 18 April 2014

bracket fungus, rac/rau cirencester, forestry finals, ace final read through, planting spuds, jtns 40k

















What's the significance of this magnificent bracket fungus? A Good Friday link, perhaps? None that I know of. I was just struck by its texture and colours as I was walking along the Oxford canal yesterday morning. It was growing on a pollarded willow. Once I would probably have been able to tell you what sort it was but, sadly, not these days. I studied forestry as part of my three-year diploma course at the Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester (now a university) back in the late seventies and early eighties. Indeed, I believe I'm right in saying that I got the highest mark in our forestry finals. Skills that have withered on the vine - if that isn't too bizarre a metaphor in this context.

Spent the first part of today checking the typeset book-block of the corrected reprint of A Conscious Englishman before running it through Acrobat Pro prior to the final read though. Having made changes, I'm looking out for unintended consequences of these, as far as the layout is concerned.

This afternoon I've been on the allotment, planting spuds, amongst other things. The annual outing of the potato dibber - see previous years' posts on this subject: 27th May 2013; 6th May 2012; 9th April 2011; 19th April 2010. This year I planted Desiree, Estima, Kestrel and Pink Fir Apple.

Meanwhile, Blogger stats tells me that jtns has reached 40,000 page views.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

canal-side blacksmith, william morris, allotment drying out, novella, a conscious englishman




















Saw this wonderful canal-side blacksmith when I was walking during my lunch break on Friday afternoon and thinking through something. The blacksmith was moored opposite Jericho, just up from St Barnabas church (see photo of 22nd February 2014).

I liked the William Morris quotation - as indicated in several jtns posts, Morris is a hero of mine (see posts on 21st April and 22nd April 2010, for example).

Beautiful sunshine for much of this week, though a cold wind remains, just waiting for a cloud to hide the sun so it can lower the temperature. But it has to be said that both sun and wind are playing their part in drying out the allotment and making forking through easier by the day.

I've been working on the novella and the corrected reprint of Margaret Keeping's A Conscious Englishman.

Yesterday, on the bus into work, I finished the major rewrite of the novella's first chapter. This used to be about 4,500 words but is now 3,200 and is itself divided into four chapters. The novella's working title is Icarus.

The text of A Conscious Englishman is almost finished and it and the updated cover - designed by Andrew Chapman - will soon be off to the printers.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

fritillaries, john wain, where the rivers meet, waterman's arms, hay fever, a conscious englishman, cambridge quarterly

















The fritillaries are out in our garden!

As an undergraduate, it was such a delight to walk round Magdalen meadows and see fritillaries flowering in abundance - both pink and white ones.

They are rare now, in the wild, only appearing in one or two water-meadows along the Oxfordshire Thames. Once, though, if the novelist and one-time Oxford University Professor of Poetry, John Wain, is to be believed, they were much more widespread. In his wonderful Oxford novel, Where the Rivers Meet, children pick bunches of them in the meadows near Iffley and sell them to the florists in the Covered Market.

The flowers were killed off by herbicides, I suppose, during the 'War Ag'.

You can find more information about John Wain's novel and how it relates to my first novel, The Lock, in the jtns post for Sunday, 14th August 2011.

As mentioned in that post, the real-life pub on Osney Island - the Waterman's Arms, as was, now the Punter - that features in both Where the Rivers Meet and The Lock was John Wain's favourite and he used to walk down to it from Wolvercote, where he lived. But in about 1991 the pub was done up. The novelist got as far as the porch, took one look at the refurbished bar and never set foot in it again. Before the alterations, the pub had a narrow bar with a lino floor and little round tables and stools, and a bar-billiards and piano room‎ off to the side. It was a great, old-fashioned pub in those days. Always packed, on a Sunday especially.

John Wain's obituary photo in The Times was taken in the old Waterman's.

I believe that, sadly, John Wain's novels are out of print now - though still available on the web and in second-hand bookshops. In addition to Where the Rivers Meet, I would recommend The Contenders and A Winter in the Hills (which, it appears is back in print in a Kindle edition this year).

Earlier this week, I thought my cough and cold had come back - with a vengeance. But now think it was a combination of hay fever (the oilseed rape is out) and the Saharan dust cloud. A bit better today.

The corrected reprint of A Conscious Englishman, meanwhile, is almost finished. Its cover includes a lovely quote from Robert Macfarlane on the front and Linda Newbery's generous praise on the back.

On the subject of A Conscious Englishman, I was delighted to see reference to it - alongside references to Robert Macfarlane and Matthew Hollis - in an article entitled Edward Thomas and His Contested Country, which appeared in the Cambridge Quarterly last year [(2014) 43 1: 85-92]:

'Others, however, channel Thomas's literary spirit differently. Most recently, Margaret Keeping's novel A Conscious Englishman (2013), imagines Thomas's path towards becoming a poet, his melancholic angst, and his decision to go to war, through conversations with those closest to him and his own thoughts and feelings. In 2011 Matthew Hollis won the Costa Book Award for Best Biography for Now All Roads Lead to France: The Last Years of Edward Thomas. In it he describes Thomas's emotional dislocation and the redeeming quality of his friendship with Robert Frost. Then there is Robert Macfarlane, Cambridge academic and celebrated nature writer, whose own work has been inspired by Edward Thomas, particularly The Old Ways (2012). Thomas's dually restless and rooted engagement with landscape resonates with Macfarlane, who appreciates how Thomas was 'interestingly alert to how we are scattered, as well as affirmed, by the places through which we move'.'