Friday, 31 March 2017

no overcoat, sunny transformation, lady's smock, sedge, white archangel, mogford prize for food and drink writing, nicky winder, cilip talk

























Enjoyed a lovely walk to work this morning. The first day without an overcoat for ages.

It was amazing yesterday seeing the oilseed rape coming into flower in the Thames Valley, when I was travelling home on the bus. The warmth of the sun had transformed the landscape in hours. And today, by the Thames near Port Meadow, there were lady's smock, sedge and white archangel - all suddenly in flower. Their leaves that most astonishingly fresh green that you only see at the very start of spring.

Went to the Mogford Prize for Food and Drink Writing party on Thursday. Wonderful fun! Congratulations to the winner, Nicky Winder, for her story, Bait. You can download it from the prize website.

Looking forward to giving a talk at the CILIP South Member Network AGM and CILIP Thames Valley AGM at the Jam Factory, Oxford next Thursday afternoon. It's entitled, Micropublishing, teaching, digital research: different worlds, or all in a day's work for the (future) librarian?

Saturday, 25 March 2017

new bridge, huzzah for the council - this time!, busy tenth week, conted awards at the sheldonian, mst res, terrific review of sb sweeney's facing the strange























A striking new bridge has been built over one of the streams feeding into the Great Book south of Aston, linking the Chimney road and the Ham Lane footpath. Huzzah for the council - this time!

On this sunny spring morning it was a pleasure to be out cycling.

Oxford tenth week but still no sign of things slowing down.

Loved attending the Department of Continuing Education awards ceremony at the Sheldonian Theatre on Wednesday. This weekend it's the MSt Residence.

A terrific review of SB Sweeney's Facing the Strange in the Oxford Times this week! It's written by Mary Lucille Hindmarch and I especially liked this paragraph: 'Facing the Strange is a kaleidoscope of intertwined lives told with verve, humour and - despite its darker themes - lightness of touch.'

Saturday, 18 March 2017

facing the strange launch, sb sweeney, roger ashton-griffiths, david rowland's rendering of the west's awake, great barrington walks, the fox







Really enjoyed seeing everyone at the launch of Facing the Strange by SB Sweeney at Blackwell's on Thursday evening. The author's video reading was terrific! This was followed by a reading of the opening scene in the novel by Roger Ashton-Griffiths (Mace Tyrell in Game of Thrones) - brilliant - and a great rendering of the Irish ballad, The West's Awake, (which features in the book) by David Rowland.

A fantastic way to celebrate the novel!

As I said in my opening remarks:

"Facing the Strange. In some ways it’s uncompromising, tough. It deals with difficult subjects – alcoholism, drugs, family breakdown, murder. But there's also humour and insight into people. Above all it's about people – and no matter how these men and women in the book are – whether they are at their best or at their worst, they are written about with compassion and humanity. What underpins the novel are real human values – chief of which is love.

"It's a story of places – Preston, London, Ireland, North Yorkshire, Somerset. It's a novel of polyphony – of a wide range of beautifully rendered voices."

A day off yesterday. A lovely walk on the Great Barrington estate and a pint at the Fox.

Saturday, 11 March 2017

launch of facing the strange by sb sweeney, lost illusions of countryside, castaways 3 launch, sylvia vetta, euton daley


Very much looking forward to celebrating the publication of Facing the Strange by SB Sweeney at Blackwell's on Thursday!

Meantime, the controversial Castle Mill Flats weren't quite as stark and Soviet-era as this when seen in colour as I was walking to work yesterday.

I was intrigued by the structure in the recently-tidied tree and when playing about with the image, black and white seemed the best way of emphasising it.

I couldn't but be struck by how bare this stretch of the Thames tow-path, between Osney Bridge and Port Meadow, seems, now that some clearing has been done. I remember walking this way a few weeks before I first moved to our flat on Osney in 1987. The tow-path here was so well screened from the city that you could easily imagine you were deep in countryside. There's still something of that effect now but the areas of waste ground alongside the railway lines that were allowed to grow aesthetically wild for years have increasingly been built on.

I also remember how on night-time walks for a pint in Jericho, once you had cut under the railway tracks between the Thames and the Oxford Canal at the end of Abbey Road, you could have been strolling to a village local. The Harcourt Arms, under John's management, with it's Fullers beers and log fires.

Things change but there is still much to enjoy along these paths.

Had a wonderful evening on Thursday at the launch of Oxford Castaways 3, the final collection of Sylvia Vetta's interviews with remarkable local people that originally appeared in Oxfordshire Limited Edition magazine. The launch - which included a charity auction - raised money for Sobell House hospice, as do proceeds from sales of the book. A particular highlight of the event was a performance poem from Euton Daley, accompanied by a wonderful vocalist - see photo on Twitter. After the launch many of us went on to Brown's for a fantastically convivial supper.

Saturday, 4 March 2017

busy 7th week, excellent piece on facing the strange by sb sweeney, maura dooley at kellogg college, broadwell crocuses























Busy 7th Week of Oxford full term...

Saw this piece about Facing the Strange on the Continuing Education website - it gives an excellent sense of the book and some very good background info about its author, SB Sweeney.

Really enjoyed poet Maura Dooley's talk at the Kellogg College Centre for Creative Writing on Thursday and attending the guest night dinner afterwards.

The crocuses in the pic above are in front of St Peter and St Paul's Broadwell.