Sunday, June 26, 2022

hedge woundwort, in a hedge, first spuds and broad beans, waiting to cycle, growling dog, eric ravilious, drawn to war

Hedge woundwort, appropriately in a hedge, near Marston.

J has been doing the allotment, very kindly, while I am not allowed to garden post the op, and today she brought back our first spuds. Not ones we planted - or not this year, at least - but volunteers from amongst the runner beans. This afternoon, she will be harvesting our first broad beans. Picked while I took our dog for a walk. I am allowed to do that, though not, frustratingly, cycling, for just over two weeks more.

As I type, dog is growling at something unknown outside. Shush!

Excited about the film about Eric Ravilious, Drawn to War, (trailer) which is released on 1 July! Love his work. It's a close run thing, choosing between him and John Nash. But then why choose - they are both exceptional!

Sunday, June 19, 2022

fox and cubs abundant, not cycling but walking, readings and showcase, settled expectations overturned, but progressing small step by small step


Fox and Cubs flowers are abundant this year in and around the village. They are striking, rich and gorgeous!

Not allowed to cycle for another three weeks due to op but can go for walks. What a delight, though! Seeing everything clearly, and in detail again.

End of Year Undergraduate Diploma in Creative Writing readings tomorrow evening. Always an event I look forward to. In a fortnight it will be the MSt showcase. The academic year is almost over. 

Extraordinary to think that this is the first time the readings and showcase will have been held in-person since 2019. Yes, always events I look forward to but in saying that my mind is playing tricks, ignoring their three-year absence, joining up occurrences as if the pandemic had never been. If only. Perhaps it's a question of trying to blot out the trauma. Not that I should overemphasise this - things haven't been that bad for us. But still, the mind has seen its settled expectations overturned by events that it struggles to understand or come to terms with and will do so for an unknown length of time. 

But great, truly great to be picking up where we left off. Small step by small step, we will progress towards a better future.

Thursday, June 9, 2022

missed out, bunting, platinum jubilee clock, stone dust, broad street party, food and natter, major...

Sadly, I missed out on the Bampton Shirt Race and the other Platinum Jubilee celebrations in the village because of the op.

I did, though, see a bit of bunting here and there, when I took short walks. Not to mention the Jubilee Clock on the town hall, drifts of stone dust still visible below it from its recent installation. 

I was able to go to the Broad Street street party on Sunday, which J and team organised. It was a lovely occasion and it was wonderful to see so many neighbours and have a natter. Amazing food too - just a fraction shown (but what a terrific fraction RS' pie is!).

The op by the way, I now learn, is described as major rather than minor but fortunately it has gone well, so seems less than it is. It has made such a difference to my life already. I'd never have noticed those drifts of stone dust beneath the clock ten days ago, for a start!

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

hospital - all well, family wedding, dancing!, it's been a while (when have I heard that before!), things, kind weather for allotmenters, solomon's seal!

(Written while waiting for a minor op in hospital earlier - all well.)

Went to a wedding last weekend at Welford, a Berkshire village I'd never visited before. The road after Wantage swept us through long valleys, the grass so many different greens in the bright sun and in the shaded moments when whispy clouds drifted across them.

Lovely to see family and friends. Lovely to dance!

It's been a while since I posted. Somehow the term - and life generally - has been extraordinarily busy. Not annihilatingly so, as it was during the pandemic, just lots of things to do.

Some social things, as well as work. Enjoyed going to a reception at Kellogg and feeling that life might be getting back to normal.

Then there has been gardening. Always too much to do on the allotment, particularly. Still, the weather has been kind to us, at least in terms of it not being rainy in the evenings and at weekends. No rain has its problems too...

Magnificent Solomon's Seal in J's garden at the house! Something must have changed in front of it - it's never been so gloriously centre-stage as now.

Sunday, May 1, 2022

frost..., planting the last of the spuds, the tenant of wildfell hall, who's this?, country memories, the land, james ravilious


Should have kept my mouth shut. The very next morning after I last posted, there was a frost...

Isn't that so gardening? You brag about flowers or your crops and wallop, there's a swarm of aphids or a burst blight... Or a late April frost.

Hopefully it won't have done too much damage to the apple and pear blossom but...!

The frost did look amazing, though, on the lawn and leaves, in the dawn sunlight. And the rest of yesterday was gorgeous.

Planted the last of the spuds in the afternoon - just Maris Peer, Desiree, Nadine and Nicola this year. And, just as I was stowing the potato dibber, I realised that I'd not taken a photo of it - last year's will have to do. Not that it was that easy to use this time, with the ground rock hard and as dry as anything. The sides crumbled into the hole and help was needed from a trowel.

This morning, I finished The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. It's taken, what, about a year? With a gap in the middle, when I read other things. Loved it. Felt sad to be leaving that world after all that time. Wish I had the leisure, nevertheless, to read these big Victorian blockbusters in only a few days. It's not simply that you keep wondering, Who is this person?, when you read them over months - well, I do nowadays. Thank goodness for Kindle search and online 'cheat' notes for school kids. It's that read in a short space, you get that amazing sense of immersion and energy. Mind you, it's great to have any time to read.

Just before going to sleep, I've been reading poetry. Over past week's it's been Vita Sackville-West's The Land. Wonderful! It is a bit weird when she goes off on one, about things that obviously mean a lot to her but which seem a bit impenetrable now. But brilliant when she evokes the countryside and tasks like ploughing and threshing.

I'm old enough to remember the countryside when it was something not too dissimilar to the one she describes - the old ways persisted into the 60s, even into the early 80s, when I was a junior land agent, spending time in south Shropshire and deepest Herefordshire. Sackville-West's poetry brings back those memories. As do the photographs of James Ravilious.

Friday, April 29, 2022

catching up, post-pandemic effect?, chaos, apple blossom, uk latin american collections webinar, iris murdoch review piece, noble yeats...


Gosh, it's taken quite a while to catch up with everything after our holiday.

Doing so has been tiring at times and I wonder whether there's something more to it. The weather, maybe, or perhaps a kind of post-pandemic effect, as one gets to grips with the new-old. There are  several events and services that we used to do at the libraries but which couldn't happen during Covid. Dusting these off and thinking one's way back into past processes, where the information is, whether it's still current where we are now - all of these tasks take time but, more than that, need a series of mental recalibrations.

So, Covid still has the capacity to make the world seem very strange (understatement, given the global chaos...).

Meantime, the apple trees in our garden - and the pear, laden with flowers - blossomed, including the Lord Lambourne in the photo. Am hoping the absence of frosts means a great harvest!

Joined colleagues from four major libraries (British Library, Cambridge, Oxford and Senate House) to take part in a webinar on UK Latin American collections last week. It was organised by LANE, which is the Latin America North East Libraries Consortium of SALALM, the US Latin Americanist librarians organisation. It was a wonderfully enjoyable event to prepare for and to deliver. Loved working with colleagues from both sides of the Atlantic. And, the recording is available on YouTube.

I also enjoyed, at the very beginning of our holiday, doing a life-writing piece for the Iris Murdoch Review. It brought back many happy memories of when we spent some time with John Bayley and Iris Murdoch in the early 90s, and of John's kindness from several years before then. He was my mentor and I owe him so much. I hope the article passes the editorial team's scrutiny and comes out in the autumn. Whatever happens, though, it was a privilege to work on it.

Oh, and while I was writing the piece, I took a little time out to put a bet on Noble Yeats in the Grand National. Was bowled over when it won! Though I can take no credit as a tipster. I just went for the horse with a poet's name...

Saturday, April 16, 2022

berberis?, week off, day trip to oxford, rose and crown, pissarro exhibition, minette, happy easter!, poem: an ordinary sky


I hope I'm right in identifying this plant, seen in the University Parks, as a Berberis. There are quite a few of them and they certainly are striking.

Have had a week off - that should be, Am taking a week off. I'm in danger of wishing - or at least writing - the week away.

And it's been wonderful to have a break from work. Doing a bit in the garden and on the allotment. Also had a day out in Oxford midweek. A pint in a pub we've been going to since I was an undergraduate, which is still pretty much the same as it always was. Excellent Adnams and atmosphere. The Rose and Crown, North Parade, as it happens. Then lunch at the Cherwell Boathouse (another favourite - which has changed a bit, and for the better, and which we've been going to for as long as the Rose). Creatures of habit, clearly.

But before these, we spent a couple of hours at the Pissarro exhibition at the Ashmolean. Really amazing! Fantastic works by him, of course, but also by his contemporaries - C├ęzanne, van Gogh, Sisley, and so many more. I was especially struck the paintings Pissarro did of his wife and family. The picture of his nine year old daughter, Minette, painted a few months before she died, her hair cut short to try and ease her fever, was so moving to see.

A poem follows.

Happy Easter!


An Ordinary Sky

Making a gap in the curtains,
seeking the thrill of the sky, I am
disappointed, 'Just an ordinary night.'

No stars, no moon peeping
round the corner of our neighbour's.
Not even the hint of shapes
of clouds. 

An ordinary sky. How often
have I assumed without realising,
'Just an ordinary...'?

The incomprehensibility of stars, 
hidden behind what is seen.
Moon orbiting earth,
the unquantifiable riches of our world.

How often have people consigned
me to ordinariness? How often
have I written myself off in those,
or worse, terms?

Let me value ordinary miracles - 
I might not wake, when the dawn comes.