Sunday, March 27, 2022

blackthorn blossom, stand out wild flowers, #blossomwatch


Such a wonderful time of year!

Saw this blackthorn blossom when cycling earlier.

What a contrast to yesterday, though, when we had an afternoon drink in the suntrap at the top of the garden, but somehow the grey sky and muted light make wildflowers stand out more.

The National Trust is celebrating the run-up to Blossom Watch Day on the 23rd April and is asking everyone to post photos on Twitter using the #BlossomWatch hashtag.

Saturday, March 26, 2022

seed potatoes, it's the ethylene, mst res, last post, bcp 0, beautiful spring day, window open, rewley road swing bridge on the up, view near harrow, emerging


Seed potatoes, ordered online (Maris Peer), and bought locally (Desiree, Nadine and Nicola), moved to attic, where they have been put into their old wooden trays. Am hoping the sprouts won't get too long. The attic is dark but warmer than ideal. Advice online indicates that putting an apple in with the spuds works - it's the ethylene, apparently.

MSt in Creative Writing residence this weekend and early next week, Supervision meeting on Monday, which I am looking forward to.

Had an alert earlier that on this day in 2020, I uploaded this post: last central oxford photo, rewley road swing bridge, handy metaphor, weird lockdown. I'd taken a photo of the swing bridge on my way to work - the last time I went to work before the lockdown and wfh. Now, two years on, the University is moving to Stage 0 of its Business Continuity Framework, and that will be the end of Covid restrictions. Of course, I have mixed feelings about this, what with the soaring infection rates, but I also can't help but yearn to put the virus behind us. Looking to the future, in the face of grim news everywhere, it seems like, on a beautiful spring day with the window open.

Certainly, the swing bridge is coming out of the pandemic better than it went in. A restoration project carried out by the Oxford Preservation Trust is nearing completion. Hooray!

And the photo? Apropos of nothing in particular. The emerging watercolour is a View Near Harrow.

Thursday, March 24, 2022

sunset, white violets, such riches

Photographed this sunset when cycling the other evening. Taken from the opposite verge to the white violets I saw last year - they're back again this time. Such riches.

Friday, March 18, 2022

reflections on the edge, march 2022


Reflections on the Edge, March 2022

As I move the resting wheelbarrow
away from the door of the log shed,
the old privy, I notice how brightly the sun
shines on the wood and the chipped

But, I realise - slowly because it's
early morning - I'm facing the wrong way.
The sunrise is on the other side of
the building. I turn. The
explosions of light in the tall sashes
of our friend's house sear my eyes.

Like bomb bursts, the
obsessive licks of their destructiveness,
like the kicking flame of a cannon,
incinerating lives, hard work,
pride, cultures, memories,
personal and national histories.

Like the reflection of an
atomic test in the darkened goggles of
observers on a 1950s atoll and
other flashbacks the tyrant's words
tease up in our collective unconscious.

Overhead, the roar of a circling plane.
Going to or from the base? I don't know.
Though soldiers fly in and out,
as do arms, aid, prime ministers,
refugees, released political prisoners.
It all happens here.

Well, not quite here. Some way off.
We live on the edge, the world
reflected in the scream of braking
engines or vapour trails, that the
mind neatly learns to zone out.

The cast sun fades, leaving the cold
of the late winter garden and the task
of fetching for the evening's cosy fire
with the news in our hands.

Sunday, March 13, 2022

cowslip, two poems, one a more human draft (i hope), intense week, london walk, birthplace, poetry readings from ukraine, white hart fyfield

This self-set cowslip comes back at the top of the lawn each year. This time looking particularly vibrant in yesterday's fresh spring sunlight.

Included below are two poems. The first is an alternative version of the one I posted the time before last. I worked and reworked the piece, pushing it further and further away from narrative towards a kind of gnomic abstraction, I realise now. I used to do that sometimes when reviewing. Worrying at the brief texts until they became stark, rigid in form and expression and I had to re-find more yielding, more human drafts.

I don't know whether everyone will agree with that analysis but I hope this new-older iteration is more immediate and nuanced.

The second poem goes with the post on the Wolf Moon of 18 January.

Oxford full term has now ended. Where did those eight weeks go!

The week before last was especially intense. Taking part in an online Research Data Management workshop and a giving a talk on Oxford's Latin American Collections in London, and preparing for both, in between time off as a result of a stomach bug. 

Going to London on the train was not something I'd experienced since before the pandemic. The Tube strike meant a two and a half mile walk each way, which proved unexpectedly fun. I saw lots of landmarks that I remembered from when I was a boy, on visits to see my gran. Even walking past the place where I was born - I don't think I've ever been so physically close to that place in... well, a very long time!

I joined readings given on Zoom by three Ukrainian poets at the end of last week. They read from towns caught up in the war. It was profoundly moving and inspiring. (More details on this in due course.)

Yesterday I was treated to lunch at the White Hart at Fyfield. It was great!


Toronto 2010

I was sitting in the Hemingway,
a bar I'd never heard of
in a city I never imagined I'd visit.

I was thrilled 
to be at the conference,
flight paid for by the university.

It should have been a proud moment,
pleased for myself, pleased for
and how proud he was of me.

The end of the first day,
time for reflection and a pint of Burton,
burger and chips ordered.

- When I facebooked later
a friend said, You're in Canada?!... -

But first,
opening the browser on my new phone
I thumb-stumbled to the site I'd been told about.
The London Gazette.
Worked out how to search it.

First Mum's page, then Dad's.
They'd been bankrupted individually
though the debt I'd only discovered 
a fortnight before was 
both theirs.

Just under a million.

Whenever I achieved something -
the theatre set that got me my one
school tie (I loved the blue and silver stripe
wouldn't have wanted any other) - 
all Mum could talk about was what she'd done.
Always, of course, unattainable.


Moon - Tuesday 18 January 2022

On the morning
before it became the wolf, 
I walked to the shed to get logs. 

As I returned, 
there it was to the north west, 
low, still waxing gibbous.

Behind the trees 
in the manor gardens.

Friday, March 4, 2022

mtns' birthday, a lifetime, belief


mtns began in March 2020.

It seems a lifetime ago... But there is always hope, and love and the really good things - we must believe that.