Wednesday, 30 December 2015

grafton lock to kelmscott, exhilarating, storm frank, pillboxes, pastoral scene, log fire...


An exhilarating but exhausting walk from Grafton Lock to Kelmscott and beyond. Storm Frank was gusty to begin with then torrential on the way back. Though nothing as bad here as in the North of England and in Scotland.

Along the Thames hereabouts there are many pillboxes that would have been a defence against an invading army during the Second World War. This afternoon, thankfully, as ever they were, the scenes from them are pastoral.

Now sitting in front of a log fire - though with twinges from stiffening joints...

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

refreshing walk round barrington park yesterday, spring-like morning today, corridors of power by cp snow, then and now...





A refreshing walk yesterday round the Barrington Park estate, beginning and ending at the Fox.

A walk last done on 4th September, when we had a week or so off. I love joining the old drove road which runs north-south from Great Rissington to Great Barrington and which makes you think that you are back in pre-motor car times.

Today, I'm catching up on some work, including research. Started the day with a cycle ride - the first in a while. A beautiful, almost spring-like morning. Certainly scarily spring-like when I came across daffodils out at Black Bourton and cherry blossom at Kencot.

Christmas holiday reading includes Corridors of Power by CP Snow. I've not read him before although I remember masters being keen on him when I was at prep-school. He never interested me then. Now, though, when looking through our bookshelves, it somehow seemed like the right moment to try him. Perhaps it was the appeal of reading something that was set in the years when my parents met and married (the novel spans 1955-58). A wish to be transported back to an era I just about remember.

An era that is not much different to our own, in terms of the political class, according to an article in the Times on tomorrow's new year honours list, which begins:

'Nearly half of the recipients of knighthoods and above in 2015 attended public school, according to an investigation on the eve of publication of the new year list.

'The figure - 46 per cent - has hardly changed since 1955, when it was 50 per cent, yet only 6.5 per cent of the population goes to private school.'

I don't know much about politics but there does seem an uncanny resemblance between the world of the book and now.

Friday, 25 December 2015

veg, logs, happy christmas!!









The veg for Christmas dinner - looking serene if nobbly (the Oxford clay is pretty impenetrable!). The calmness of the photo belies the mad storm that was raging when it was taken!

After the allotment it was the Christmas log delivery - log deliveries involve Frank bringing the barrows round from the road and me taking them up the long garden to the old privy that serves as a log shed. We have our barrow and Frank brings his. This partnership has been going since 2001, with four-to-five deliveries a winter. The deliveries are one of the fundamental calendars of the winter.

The veg above join the potato - well one or two more than one, although the spud harvest was terrible this year - and the onions.

Happy Christmas!!

Saturday, 19 December 2015

brian nisbet 1959-2015: now you know chosen as one of ron butlin's books of the year


Well, the days don't get any cooler just now. Nor lighter.

Even so, a surprisingly vibrant and energising walk was had early today.

The photo above shows bare oaks along Hayway Lane against eastern skies at sunrise. Oaks are rare around Bampton itself but there are some along the lane towards the Thames.

I was so pleased to hear that the poetry collection Now You Know by the late Brian Nisbet, a former student on Oxford's Undergraduate Diploma in Creative Writing, was chosen as one of Ron Butlin's books of the year (list published in Scotland's The Herald newspaper, 30th November 2015).

You can find out more about Brian's beautiful book and read some of his poems on his website.

As readers of jtns may remember, I went to the launch of Brian's book back in April. It was a wonderful event. Ron Butlin's recognition of Brian's work is a fitting tribute to his great talent, as well as to his great humanity.

Brian's obituary was published in the Guardian on 14th August, written by Mary-Lucille Hindmarch.

Of Brian's book, Ron Butlin writes: 'One of this year’s most enjoyable poetry collections comes from Brian Nisbet (Nisbet Publications), a true poet whose poems glow with genuine wonder and joy. Now You Know is a marvellous collection I will return to again and again.'

Thursday, 17 December 2015

blur, beautiful yorkshire, hot, fungi, wild angelica, lecture room 7, facing the strange, edward thomas's birds' nests







Scenes from the last couple of difficult weeks that have passed in a blur.

Mum's funeral was in Yorkshire where Dad is buried. It was a bright sunny afternoon and the countryside surrounding the churchyard was as beautiful as it ever was.

The support of family and close friends was so very much appreciated.

Around Oxford, the days have mostly been lightless but hot. Fifteen or even seventeen degrees. A boon for fungi - and it seems, wild angelica.

The lost glove looks jollier than I must have done recently.

Amidst the sadness, though, there have been good times. I loved working with the undergraduate students during my seminar series, which finished last week. I first started teaching it in Lecture Room 7 in 2007. The door isn't exactly Brideshead, perhaps, but it's mine - at least for two and a half hours a week for five weeks as autumn gives way to winter.

I also finished copy editing what we're calling the uncorrected proof edition of Facing the Strange at the weekend, and the printed proof arrived today. Although an advocate of ebooks, you can't beat a real book!

At Mum's funeral I read Edward Thomas's poem Birds' Nests:

The summer nests uncovered by autumn wind,
Some torn, others dislodged, all dark,
Everyone sees them: low or high in tree,
Or hedge, or single bush, they hang like a mark.

Since there's no need of eyes to see them with
I cannot help a little shame
That I missed most, even at eye's level, till
The leaves blew off and made the seeing no game.

'Tis a light pang. I like to see the nests
Still in their places, now first known,
At home and by far roads. Boys knew them not,
Whatever jays and squirrels may have done.

And most I like the winter nests deep-hid
That leaves and berries fell into:
Once a dormouse dined there on hazel-nuts,
And grass and goose-grass seeds found soil and grew.

Saturday, 5 December 2015

a week, the profound beauty of human kindness, the gatehouse literary forum, lac 50th on iguanalista, open data: the golden age of discovery


It has been, I should say, a shocking week.

Yet it has also been, as every week is, no matter how bad, a week of beauty. Of beautiful nature and the profound beauty of human kindness.

--

Meantime, here is a really interesting new site, which is edited by a graduate of the Oxford MSt in Creative Writing. It's called The Gatehouse Literary Forum Oxford. The About us section explains:

'The Gatehouse Literary Forum publishes works by guests of the Gatehouse drop-in centre in Oxford, England. These include personal essays, short stories and poems. Some pieces are partially inspired by writing prompts provided at the drop-in centre on Literacy Fridays. Others are developed by the guests in their own time.

'The purpose of this website is to provide a forum for expression and to highlight one critical point: no one can be defined solely by how they appear, how they speak, where they’re from, nor by their current living situation. We are all far more complex than any one statement could possibly convey.'

Also, some pieces I wrote on the Latin American Centre's 50th anniversary have just been published on América Latina Portal Europeo's Iguanalista blog: Oxford University Latin American Centre's 50th anniversary and Bodleian Latin American Centre Library 40th.

Yesterday, I attended the Research Data Management Delivery Group communications workshop - a great event. By the by, there's an excellent Oxford University podcast on Open Data: Open Data - the Golden Age of Discovery. Well worth checking out!