Sunday, November 27, 2022

salvias, bright garden colours, the unknown, underlying caution, cautious hope

 A pair of salvia flowers in our garden. Because of the warm autumn and the heavy rains, there are still many bright colours and summer greens (the lawn is amazing - quite recovered from the drought) mixed in with the gold and copper.

Cheering, but then one wonders what is happening with the climate, so there is a certain feeling of danger and the unknown behind the beauty.

Approaching the end of Oxford term and the run-up to Christmas - first departmental festive lunch on Thursday - which is exciting and curious at the same time. Still have that feeling of learning how to live a 'normal' life over again. There is that strong sense that the world can't be trusted to do things like it used to. And who can blame us for thinking that! So much chaos tumbled into 2022 - enough to make anyone cautious. 

But things will get better, I'm sure of that. Fiction and poetry are refuges and give much hope for the beauty of the human heart.

Perhaps the future will be better than the past!

Saturday, November 12, 2022

northern portugal, first time since 2019, returning to normal(?), relearning, thinking through afresh, certhe, non-eu


Really enjoyed returning to northern Portugal to see dearest friends for the first time since November 2019.

Some pics: tiles in Porto; terracing, cork oaks, a strawberry tree, a spider, a boulder and fungi in a recently thinned and refurbished cork oak wood near Trancoso; a traditional boat on the Douro at Pinhão, just up from Quinta de la Rosa; freshers' week in the centre of Porto.

Travelling to Europe again felt like things were returning to normal post-pandemic, although back in Oxford much remains to be relearnt and much needs to be thought-through afresh. We will get there but not as soon as we would wish, I fear.

Completed my last marking for the Undergraduate Certificate in Higher Education just before our break. I've taught on this course for ten years. The decision to give up was the right one, in that I need to create time for my own work, which has ground to a halt over the past year, but I will certainly miss the course, which was so fulfilling.

Our trip was the first time we had flown to Europe after Brexit. It seemed sad to be joining the non-EU queues.

Sunday, October 9, 2022

beautiful thames-side heron, more digging, last of the apples, still pears

Saw this beautiful heron when taking a walk during my lunch break in the week. It was beside the Thames a little to the north of Oxford station. Different bird, I imagine, to Osney bird - which lives about a quarter of a mile to the south.

Did more digging on the allotment this morning. Also picked pretty much the last runner beans - a huge bagful, though. Back at the house we ate the last two Lord Lambourne apples with our late breakfast. Superb. Almost the end of the apple harvest this year... But we still have quite a few pears left.

Sunday, October 2, 2022

gnarled blenheim oranges - delicious!, autumn digging, still harvesting, piece in iris murdoch review

Slug-munched gnarled Blenheim Orange apples. Both fallers and two of only a handful that the tree produced. I'd thought the skins would be tough but we had one each for breakfast and they were soft and the flesh was absolutely delicious.

Autumn digging on the allotment earlier - very satisfying. Also still harvesting runner beans, spinach, cucumbers and tomatoes. Saving beetroot, carrots, parsnips and leeks for later in the season.

Thrilled that the piece I wrote about John Bayley and Iris Murdoch is in the latest Iris Murdoch Review. See Editorial Preface for more information about the full range of articles.

Sunday, September 25, 2022

relaxing long walks and wonderful food, ancient church tucked away, a robin's welcome, fungi, fovant badge, queen's funeral, start of new academic year

Happy and relaxing few days in Wiltshire, near Tisbury - long walks, wonderful food, beer, cider and wine.

Came across Sutton Mandeville's tucked away church and couldn't believe its beauty nor its age (Norman on an Anglo Saxon site).

The robin welcomed us at the churchyard gate.

Some magnificent fungi, including the boss-like bracket Grifola Frondosa (I think!) growing above the roots of an oak.

Haven't yet been able to identify the intriguing, somewhat beguiling, greeny one.

One of the Fovant badges seen on the opposite side of the valley on an after-lunch walk.

We packed and drove down on the day of the Queen's funeral. Like so many, the ache of grief reminded me of that when a close relative has died. The thump-thump of the marching music and the lone piper still echo in the back of my mind.

Back to work tomorrow and to the last week before Freshers arrive and the new academic year begins!

Sunday, September 18, 2022

rewley road swing bridge, looking good, first-times since 2019, covid memories, looking to the future, kellogg, lord lambourne, her majesty and the chocolate ice cream


Happy to report that the Rewley Road Railway Swing Bridge is looking good, part-way through its restoration (nearing completion, I imagine). Quite different to the state of it in March 2020, when I photographed it on my way to work for the last time before the Covid lockdown. (See also post from Saturday, March 26, 2022.)

Loved taking part in the Taylor Institution Library Open Doors event last Saturday and showing people round the wonderful building. The first time the event has run since 2019. Another set of first-time-since-2019 tours took place this Friday as part of the University Open Day.

After Open Doors, I had my packed lunch at Kellogg (including a delicious Lord Lambourne apple from our tree) before some intensive assignment marking in the library. College was very quiet - the calm before the storm of term, with everyone, presumably making the most of the last days of the Long Vac. In the evening I met J at the Holly Bush on Osney Island for a pint before supper at friends'. Hadn't been back to the Holly Bush (now much expanded) for years. The supper party still gave one the feeling of making a further step towards getting back to normal.

Lots of memories and thoughts about the past and future, as well as wondering what will happen next.

Thinking of the Queen too, of course, and all she did for this country. I have a memory of being introduced to her when she brought Prince Andrew to Heatherdown for the start of his prep-school days and all the other new starters had to line up with our parents to meet her. Not that I can remember much of that time, apart from how like schoolboys and schoolgirls parents suddenly became in her presence. More vivid was a time years before when I was standing with my mum and dad watching her process on the back of a Land Rover down the course at Badminton horse trials. I was eating a big chocolate ice cream and the Land Rover happened to stop where we were. She looked at me and made her eyes very big. 'That looks good,' she said. I can't remember what I said - probably hid behind my dad's legs in self-conscious embarrassment...

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

catch-up photos, apples, shepherd's hut, glads, party!

Gosh, where has the time gone!

Lots of library work, teaching, allotment and gardening watering... and holiday.

All of which were rewarding, although the last was extremely welcome.

A catch-up series of photos.

Another wonderful apple harvest! Though the Charles Ross lost all its blossom during a late spring frost, sadly - just after I had boasted of our apple trees looking abundant. The fickleness of nature - the vanity of gardeners (well, this one anyway).

The Blenheim Orange was also hit. But the James Grieve (bottom apple photo), Cox, and Lord Lambourne (top) have been amazing! Especially the Lord L, whose fruits have been crisp and juicy and pallette-tinglingly delicious!

An excursion to far-off Northmoor in August (all of 5 miles) to stay in a shepherd's hut at the Red Lion was fantastic. Excellent place to be, with terrific walks along the Thames and inland through sheep flocks grazing ancient-seeming pastures.

The allotment has done well, despite the drought. Gladioli - self-set from last year - have been gorgeous.

It was lovely to have friends round for drinks (aftermath, part-way through being cleared up, in photo) over the bank holiday weekend. The first proper drinks gathering since 2019, pre-pandemic.

And in the background, always the news. Interesting times, I suppose...