Monthly Archives: January 2017

Speeding downhill

Speeding downhill

I had he bi-monthly Oxford ALLi meeting this evening and so I stayed at work a bit longer, and then enjoyed the freedom of the bicycle to nip up to Headington to go to Waitrose. I only wanted one thing, and I only came out with one thing. I just took the opportunity of being a few minutes bike ride away from a Waitrose which sadly (but probably fortunately) I don’t frequent often enough to get some more shampoo. I’m currently using their own brand pure soap.

Then I cycled back into town, past Brookes, and took the straight and direct route down The HillTM – now that’s a scary old beast. It’s next to impossible to cycle up, and heart in your throat terrifying to whizz down on two wheels. I have cycled down there before, but not often. I’m sure I could have gone frightened, but even though it was exhilerating, it was also scary and I was frightened.

When I arrived at Manos in Jericho I found it closed, which was annoying. I had hoped to arrive early, and like last time have a hot chocolate and do some writing – I really must get back to my writing – but they were closed. I cycled down to the canal just to see what was there, and then back, when Debbie and Lynne arrived. We decamped to an Italian a few doors down, to eat, and talk books and publishing.


Boom! Not just a wize-cracking, page-turning adventure…

Boom! Not just a wize-cracking, page-turning adventure...

Boom! by Mark Haddon

This was a rollercoaster of read involving school teachers and aliens, a road trip and wise-cracking dialogue. It was fast and funny but it also lackd none of Mark Haddon’s trademark portrayal of family relationships, some disfunctional and some not.

Where at one point, you thought characters were going to take you (and the story) in one direction there is constant surprise around the next corner as it lurches you on in much the same way as Craterface’s motorbike. I think I might quite like to see a spin-off story about Craterface actually and/or Becky.

Amongst the crazy-fun story, you do get to learn more how not to judge people too quickly and that we all make mistakes, and we can all be a friend to another at different times, but not necessarily all the time.

The Monday Morning Commute

The Monday Morning Commute

Slept a bit restlessly and with anxiety for today’s bike to work adventure. I think I was paranoid that for my return journey I wasn’t going to be able to be allowed to take my bike on the S5 bus home again and I was going to be stranded in Oxford with a folding bike…

I got up, in good time and cycled off into the night, and to my bus stop and folded the bike down ready for the bus to arrive, absolutely fine. So far so good. When I got to Oxford, I went round and retrieved my bike from the store to find that the a screw that secures the metal peg in the handlebars when it’s not folded had worked itself loose and I couldn’t secure the handlebars properly. Aggghhh!!! Day one? How could this happen.

Eventually I decided it was rideable though and set off, quickly crossing the centre of Oxford and through St Clements. I had to stop at the corner opposite South Parks, and when I went to set off again, I must have raised my hands up enough that the handlebars came free in my hand and I had to hastily slot them back in the middle of the road as I pulled away into Morrell Avenue. Worse than this embarrassment as my hands had jerked back and was waving handlebars in the air I had dislodged my contact lens where it now remained lodged in the corner of my eye. I knew that I couldn’t do anything about my lens until I was indoors and so was particularly pleased when I managed to cycle halfway up Morrell Avenue (and therefore The HillTM before I was forced to retreat to the pavement and two legs.

Artistic photo of me cycling on another occasion…

At the end of the day I decided that it was probably not a good idea to free-wheel down a steep hill very fast with the potential of losing handlebars on a bike with very small wheels. So I cycled round the corner from my office to get my normal bus home (which was absolutely fine getting the bike on board), and got me back to Bicester in time to go back to my bike shop and get a new spring and nut put in place. And then I cycled home again.

The Last Christmas Present

The Last Christmas Present

Sunday. What a miserable day it has been today – I don’t think it ever got completely light, although if it had done then we woudn’t have noticed through the endless overlaiden grey sky and rain. We had a quiet start to the day, having porridge for breakfast and then I read whilst Emma had a second go at the Big Garden Birdwatch although I think she got more from yesterday’s hour. We decided it was too wet to clean out the animals and so we took advantage of the bird flu measures of covered (and dry) enclosures to do some remedial care to the bunnies run before heading out.

First off, we went to the carwash and hotwashed and waxed my car in the stage one preparations for selling it. Then we headed on (keeping ourselves always the Abingdon-side of our home as Emma was on call) to Go Outdoors in Oxford to look at tents, as we’d both been given money from various people at Christmas for our tent fund.

We’d been looking alot online but its hard to know exactly what they’re like, or what facility they have for under-cover wet weather cooking from the websites so wanted to see some in reality. In the end we purchased (albeit still to be collected) a Vango Icarus Classic 500 for our next camping holiday. We had £200 and although we were expecting to contribute some towards it ourselves, with end of season sales, we go it for £200 with a footprint and carpet thrown in!

It does seem pretty huge! In fact even I can stand up in the middle of the main living area without stooping, but it still feels like a tent of old rather than a canvas-caravan or mobile-cottage! Small things, but I think the thing that sold me on it were the eyeholes in the bottom of the external doors which would allow us to hook it up as a canopy (or angled canopy) for under-cover cooking during wet weather.

Next stop camping in North Norfolk and catching up with Rachel I think! 🙂

Conceived in 1993

Conceived in 1993
Apparently it's six years since I found, and found an old VHS tape of my BA Creative Arts honours project and managed to put it online. It's quite prophetic really. It was always about global filmaker, Hol E. Wood, and the loss of creativity in the media, but back then in 1993 it did seem to foreshadow developments in filmaking that we take for granted now, and some that are more that we are grappling with in their infancy:
every single film ever made has been digitally compressed into a huge library, where they can be accessed, taken apart, used, reused - infinitesimally Mrs Chubbs, Home Movies, 1993
Take Peter Cushing's appearance in the latest Star Wars film, and the controversy over whether we have the right to have actors play parts that they never could have had any knowledge of. It's all there in Home Movies... Something else which is there is the character of Amanda Jones from the 1985 film Some Kind of Wonderful. Who would've thought then that she would the seed of the story for the Mr Tumnal follow-up, The Imaginary Wife as just one of the literary and pop-culture references to find and enjoy?

John Hurt was The Storyteller

Saturday. Woke to the news that the actor John Hurt has died. Tributes pour in and obituaries read. Amongst his most famous credits are appearances in Alien, Doctor Who, the Harry Potter films, and of course as The Elephant Man. There is little to no mention of the iconic series in which I first discovered him, and will always remember him – that of Jim Henson’s The Storyteller from 1988, and in which he was the storyteller.

I remember thinking then that he must have been 77, and was an actor who always seemed older than he actually was. Clearly he was an actor that could play “old” very well.

When people told themselves their past with stories, explained their present with stories, foretold the future with stories, the best place by the fire was kept for… The Storyteller.


A narrative of the darkest season

A narrative of the darkest season

Winter: An Anthology for the Changing Seasons by Melissa Harrison (Editor)

Like it’s sister book, Autumn, this is not just a collection of poetry, prose, and non-fiction but a narrative of the darkest season. It takes us through the cold winter months through, frosts and fog, and flurries of snow. We feel through the words the hard, frozen ground under foot, and the wildest of storms.

Diary entries keep us locked to natures calendar with its stories of winter survival and migratory escape. There are possibly more contemporary accounts in this volume than in Autumn but the writers still range across the centuries, and with the citations and dates not given until the end of each piece it is sometimes reassuringly hard to tell, and often a surprise!

The last few collected passages gently tease us of winter’s passing, and the promise of the season to come, echoing the hope that we all feel at the end of darkest of seasons.

Putting the Government back in its place

Tuesday. So the Supreme Court says Parliament must give Article 50 go-ahead. This of course doesn’t change the (in my opinion, flawed) result of last summer’s referendum, but it is a reassuring reality-check to the Government and our unelected Prime Minister that they can not ignore the sovereignty of parliament. I am realistic enough that with the Labour Party’s disappointing (if unavoidable) stance on whether or not to support the invoking of Article 50 to begin the negotiations with the EU to agree the the terms of leaving, today’s announcement won’t do much to change our seemingly inevitable way out of Europe.

I do hope though, that this might be the beginning of an uneasy road. I think there is still a real chance that that the arguments of how and when of Brexit will lead to it never happening. Invoking Article 50 wil have to go Parliament and then to Lords. If it’s controversial enough with ammendments in the former, surely there’s more chance that it will be thrown out of the Pro-EU Lords? And again, maybe? All we need is for it go on long enough to delay Theresa May’s March deadline and suddenly the two year negotiation period with the EU is looking like ending a bit to close to the date of the next General Election. Might our unelected Prime Minister then choose to go the polls early, and then all bets are off. In that instance I would have thought a minority government of any persuasion is increasingly likely.

Whilst not dismissed altogether, there is still a chance that the results of last year’s EU referendum will be pushed off into the long grass for some year’s come.

To this end, I have written to both Jeremy Corbyn:

I have been a Labour Party member since the aftermath of the 2015 General Election and have voted twice for you as leader (even if I do have reservations about your stance the EU, the Referendum, and “Brexit”.

Following today’s supreme court ruling over invoking Article 50, I am writing to you to urge you allow a free-vote of Labour MPs when it comes to legislation for invoking Article 50. It is clear that the government do not yet have a plan for the negotiations with the EU, or what happens if agreement can not be reached.

As far as I see it we should spend as long as is needed before activating the ticking clock of two years after which we will be out with or without a deal. I cannot see how, at the current stage of things, that the government have time to do all of that within the allotted two years.

A free vote of your MPs is necessary to allow those who feel they need to vote in a way as to represent their constituencies can do so.

…and my local MP, Victoria Prentis:

Following today’s supreme court ruling over invoking Article 50, I am writing to you to urge you vote AGAINST invoking Article 50. The EU Referendum was always only an advisory rather than mandatory referendum and was not legally binding. It is also becoming increasingly clear that were it held again barely more than 6 months on, that it would have gone the other way. You yourself voted in favour of remaining in the EU and your constituency only voted to leave by just 500 votes (and was the only Oxfordshire constituency to do so).

If we are to leave the EU, then it is absolutely clear that we MUST have a clear plan for what life post-EU will look like. It has become clear that the government does not yet have a plan for the negotiations with the EU, or what happens if agreement can not be reached. Further to this, we HAVE to have this plan before Article 50 is invoked, because even if this means spending as long as is needed before activating the ticking clock of two years after which we will be out with or without a deal. I cannot see how, at the current stage of things, that the government have time to do all of that within the allotted two years.

For this reason I urge you to vote against activating Article 50 whenever this vote is called.

A beautiful book of dragons and wizards

A beautiful book of dragons and wizards

White Mountain by Sophe E. Tallis

Tolkein’s The Hobbit aside, I do not often read the sword and sorcery fantasy that involves dragons, but Sophie Tallis’ White Mountain is too beautiful a book not to read. Even in the Kindle version, the illustrations by the author shine through and help you draw you into a world – epic in scale – and under control a dark and powerful wizzard.

The story has the feel of of Elizabeth Kerner’s Song in the Silence in the way that humans, wizards, and dragons co-exist in the world. Whenever I think of dragons I thing big, Tolkien Smaug-sized beasts that dwarf the other characters, and so I did stuggle a bit with placing the size of some of the dragons we meet in this story.

Where this story succeeds marvellous is the relationship between the old, wizened Mr Agyk and his apprentice witch, Wendya, and through them their relationship with Gralen. No spoiler’s here, but the closing chapters are heartrending until the end…

The Friendship of Lady Ros Letellier

Tonight, Emma and I went to celebrate Ros’ 40th birthday. Ros (and Nick) are good friends who I wish that I had known for a lot longer than I have. They had a memory book for us all to write in, and me being me, I decided to write a poem. It’s not the finest of works, but it’s literally a first draft, honest, from the heart, and true. I’ll let these words do the talking as to why Ros means what she does, and why so many of her friends turned out on a freezing cold January night to celebrate with her.

There once was a lady called Ros
We met when when we went to a musical about Oz
We were friends at Blackwell—
back before those Wiley days.
We partied at The Bod
and our friendship has been For Good.
You were the only girl on my stag boat
We can go for months without seeing  each other
—but everytime we do, its like it was yesterday.
Thank you fro being the best of frinds
Lady Ros.