Friday, 19 January 2018

Not the best day for a walk but we did it!

Given the less-than-attractive weather forecast, sensible people stayed indoors in the dry and warm. But as six of us were not sensible enough to be daunted by the prospect of getting wet and cold, our regular monthly walk went ahead. And, at the end of it, we were very glad that we did. What could be better than getting out and enjoying the countryside?

Our route: starting and ending in Milton Abbot and negotiating a mixture of fields (wet fields), country lanes and green lanes (wet green lanes). Clocked at just under 7 miles, it felt more because of the leg-sapping tramping across soggy fields and a few generous inclines. But it was enjoyable and one to be repeated when the sun is shining.
St Constantine's church at Milton Abbot. It dates from the 14th century but we didn't have time to visit. Something for the future?
Looking west towards Bodmin Moor. It struck me just how many man-maid things were reaching up from the landscape - telegraph poles, storage silos on farms, the tower of Dunterton church and the ever increasing number of wind turbines.
In the hamlet of Meadwell, we came across a group of cottages with this name. Who was Sophia? Who had named the cottages after her? Some doting husband? A secret admirer?
Across the way was the mirror image called Arthur Cottages. Arthur? Who was he and what was his relationship, if any, to Sophia? I haven't been able to find out but I'm speculating that these are the names of two members of the Kelly family, the local 'nobility'. It is probable that it was the Kelly family who built these houses in the first place for their estate workers.  I could be wrong but it seems reasonable.
Roadside artwork, with no visible attribution. It's always pleasing to come across something quirky.
Despite the overcast skies, rain clouds, rain showers and whatever else nature threw at us, one constant feature of the walk were the views. Here's one to the east-ish with St Michael's church at Brentor, with Dartmoor beyond.
Finger post signs are, of course, not uncommon but, as a relatively rare feature, it was interesting to come across this one that had the points of the compass marked. At some point in the past, before decent road maps and sat navs, it was obviously important for travellers to know the direction in which they were going, as well as the names of towns en route.

The snowdrops are getting into their stride now. Although there has been lots of rain, the temperatures have been relatively mild, resulting in a burst of activity in the plant world.

Almost missed this trig point lurking in the hedge by the side of the road. Quite a big chip off the top but otherwise in good condition.
The flush plate gives the number S5681. A quick Google reveals that it's located at Ramsdown Plantation and dates from 1950. It's a third order point, that filled in the gaps between the second order stations, that filled in the gaps between the primary pillars. So, now you know. There's more to these concrete blocks than meets the eye.
On the scale of trigophilia, I reckon I'm pretty low down, although my writings might suggest otherwise. Take a look at to see how obsessive some people are. As an example, I give you the young lady above who, when she saw S5681, "just had to give it a hug". And upload a photograph of this romantic moment onto the Trgpointing website, just one of many such episodes in her life. Although I will appreciate a trigpoint if I come across one, I wouldn't go too far out of my way to find it. Unlike some people who seem to spend all of their spare time 'bagging' them. Having said that, bagging them is a great incentive to get out into the countryside and take some exercise.
Mud, mud, glorious mud. A pretty typical paddling-in-the-mire part of the walk. Hooray for good boots. Lots of sloshing but completely dry feet.
Looking west-ish towards Kit Hill, just above where we live. Looks like the weather there was not good when this photograph was taken. Not a surprise as the weather was not good everywhere.
With superb timing, the final shower came on just in time to get us wet before we got in to our cars to go home.

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

What's in a name?

I came across a snippet about the artist James McNeill Whistler that is interesting. In 1871, he painted what would become his most famous work and which he titled “Arrangement in Grey and Black”, as he tended to give his paintings musical themes at the time. The following year he submitted this to the Royal Academy of Art in London for its 104th Exhibition. Both members of the Royal Academy and the British public were unhappy with the work - the Academy came close to rejecting the painting and the public was uneasy , apparently, with a portrait described solely as an “arrangement” of colors, wanting more of an explanatory title. As a result, Whistler appended the words “Portrait of the Artist’s Mother” to the “Arrangement” title just for this exhibition, although that name stuck and the painting has come down to us as the more popular “Whistler’s Mother.”

What if other artists had reconsidered the titles of their paintings? Maybe these would benefit by having more descriptive titles?
I am truly humbled by this reception, your majesty, but you do realise I'm just here to deliver the papers?
And I'll give you your i-pads back at the end of the day.
Father Xmas wondering if he can claim the elves as dependents on his tax return.
Sorry, darling, they did say that the boat would be tied to the shore. We are going to have to jump aboard.
What does daddy mean, mummy? "He's been unfaithful"? And what's a massage therapist?
How families ignored each other before Smartphones.
The tradional Cornish way of celebrating successful potty training.
"No, I'm sorry, I've never heard of an 'i-pad mini'. Are you sure you've got the right Apple Store?"
As noon crept up, Mary made a silent vow to never again come to work with a hangover.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Trolling for Trump? No point.

I actually had decided not to feature The Donald in my blog for a while but my last post seems to have attracted such an outpouring of vitriol from Trump supporters that I feel the least I can do is to entertain them some more. So, by popular request, I offer you....
Well I don’t know about you, but I’m devastated, devastated I tell you, that DJT isn’t coming to us to open the new American embassy after all. He’s cancelled his trip to London allegedly because our authorities can’t guarantee that he would not be met with hostile demonstrations. Though the word “hostile” is probably superfluous here. Thinking about it, if DJT won’t visit any country unless the authorities can guarantee he won’t be confronted with hostile demonstrations, then that pretty much only leaves Russia for his travels. Нет, вы можете заставить его сказать моих русских друзей.

The cancelled visit is a separate visit from the state visit with the royal coaches and the full-on flummery that Theresa May had offered him during her hand-holding session. There’s no date set for this one, because the Speaker of the House of Commons has made it clear that there’s as much chance of him welcoming Trump to the British Parliament as there is of David Davies negotiating a good deal for Brexit. It’s one thing when the hostile demonstrations are organised by leftie protesters (like wot I might be), it’s quite another when they’re organised by the Speaker of the House of Commons and his men in tights.

So a lower key visit was proposed instead, a so-called working visit, which meant that there would be slightly less time available for golf courses and tweeting. But according to Trump, it’s really all Obama’s fault that this visit has been cancelled. He’s not going to London because Obama got a really bad deal on the new embassy and sold the old building for 'peanuts'. This was quite an achievement for Obama, because it was under George W Bush that the deal was struck to sell of the old embassy, but then in Trump world Obama is responsible for absolutely everything that Trump doesn’t like, except for the stuff that Hillary Clinton is responsible for. Personally I’ve cancelled my own proposed visit to London, too. I’ve just discovered that not everyone who works on Virgin trains is, in fact, a virgin.
Now the man is embroiled in yet another row about racism. During a meeting with US politicians to discuss immigration, he reportedly said, with reference to migration from Haiti and certain Latin American and African countries, “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” He then went on to wonder why the US doesn’t concentrate instead on attracting immigration from countries like Norway. Possibly that’s because Norwegians don’t fancy giving up their well paid jobs and their well funded public services to go and pick fruit in California on the minimum wage without healthcare. Just a suggestion.

Friday, 12 January 2018

Trumpity Trump: what a s@*thole.

If it wasn’t clear before, it is now as obvious as the Donald's comb over: the infighting in the White House is hilarious, or would be if it did not involve the President of the United States. Petulantly tweeting that you’re a “very stable genius” is a pretty good indicator that you’re no such thing. And then when you tweet “my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart”, you’re coming across as an immature teenager. This is the President of the United States, you know, the man who’s response to Kim Jong-Un’s nuclear threats was to tweet that his nuclear button was bigger than Kim’s nuclear button. Although the truth is that his button isn’t any bigger, it’s just that his hands are really tiny.
Thanks to Private Eye for this.
I'll confess to being something of a political geek (No! Really? You could have fooled me.) and over the years I have read numerous political commentaries and biographies. Nothing, but nothing, has been as excoriating or incendiary as the book by Michael Wolffe, Fire and Fury. Heralded as an insider's portrait of a dysfunctional White House, it is hugely entertaining. It is not particularly well-written but it is a good read, despite it lacking the firm pen of an editor to weed out the many, too many, Americanisms that make parts of the narrative quite difficult for a European to understand (Hooray for the on-line dictionary on my Kindle). How true is it? I'm obviously in no position to judge but common-sense says that it's unlikely to be completely false, neither will it be 100% accurate. The truth lies somewhere between the two extremes and wherever on the spectrum it falls, it is still a damning condemnation of not just Donald Trump, but all of his sycophants, who collude with him and who are guilty by association.

Does the book reveal anything we didn't know or suspect? Not really. Donald Trump has proved to be the man, and the president, his many opponents expected and warned against. Trump is Trump and the notion that the vain and narcissistic showman would be moderated by office is shown to be as fanciful as it always was. Since he's been in office, his self-regard has merely grown to presidential proportions.

Remember, this is the President of the United States. Remember, this is the man who is a congenital liar: a man who has defended violent white supremacists in Virginia, retweeted the bile of British neo-fascists, backed police brutality against suspected criminals and threatened North Korea with 'fire and fury'. He has withdrawn the US from the Paris Climate Change Accord, recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel (in defiance of international law) and jeopardised the Iran nuclear deal, which is supported by American allies, such as Britain and the EU.

His core supporters, if they read the book (which they probably won't), will not care a jot. Why should they care? As far as they are concerned, the federal government isn't functioning properly anyway. After all, nothing Washington has done in the past 30 years has been of any help to them. They wanted someone to shake the place up and they judged that Trump would do it. They will be no more troubled by disarray in the White House than the Paris mob that stormed the Bastille was troubled by disarray in Louis XVI's Versailles court. Disarray was exactly what they hoped for.
Where will it all end? Who knows? But what I think is that, rather than courting celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey, the Democrats need inspiring candidates of their own to mount a real challenge to the Republicans. And, at the moment, I couldn't put a name to one.

Should all this concern us in the UK? Of course it should, at many levels. If for no other reason than domestic distractions are bad news for international politics. And that brings us back to Brexit.

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic?

That was the reshuffle, that was. It was supposed to be Theresa May putting her stamp of authority on her rebellious party, but instead her rebellious party stamped on her. You might have thought that Jeremy Hunt, who is in charge of the flatlining NHS in England, where the only machine that goes beep is the one in his head, would be a prime candidate for a demotion. Or at least a sideways shuffle, which would be considerably more movement than the many patients waiting in Accident and Emergency departments nationwide. However, Jeremy refused to budge, and Mrs M is so politically weak that she couldn’t force him to go. Instead she did a U-turn, retracted and expanded his authority. What was that she was saying about strong leadership? Run it passed me again without breaking sniggering.

Justine Greening decided she’d rather waltz off to the back benches rather than be moved from Education to the DWP. Now she’ll join the ranks of those plotting Theresa’s downfall. And this tells us all we need to know about Conservative priorities; that Theresa May wants to remove the comprehensive supporting and free school sceptic Justine Greening from education whilst she, the PM, was still backing the appointment of Toby Young to the new university watchdog.

You know, that’s the Toby who is in favour of eugenics and selective breeding for higher IQs, who doesn’t like accessibility ramps for disabled children and who has serially tweeted about the size of women’s breasts. Personally I could be in favour of eugenics if it were possible to selectively breed out dickheads like Toby. Thankfully, Toby has just announced his resignation. We can now look forward to a parade of British nationalist journalists publishing columns telling us how terrible it is that Toby is being silenced for his youthful indiscretions, even though he made most of them when he was already a supposedly responsible adult. It’s a dreadful digital inquisition, they'll claim. Not it's not. It's people accurately quoting his own words back at him. This is the man who wrote a scathing review of the film 'I Daniel Blake' claiming that it didn’t ring true because the main character wasn’t like any of the people in Channel 5’s poverty porn programmes. Daily Mail journalists are tweeting that 'political correctness' was sapping public life of talented people. Which would be true, but only if the talent you had in mind was a talent for being offensive and a total wanker. What’s really sapping public life of talented people is the nepotism and cronyism of this government. Toby Young is best pals with Boris Johnson and the Foreign Secretary’s brother, the newly appointed Transport Minister, Jo Johnson. It’s a sign of the utter moral bankruptcy of the Conservative party that Toby Young jumped instead of being pushed. His resignation comes after over 200,000 people signed a petition demanding that he be removed from office. Toby Young has performed one valuable public service though. Just when you thought that Theresa May couldn’t look any weaker or less principled, there comes Toby to prove you wrong. When Mr Young displays a better grasp of ethics than the Conservative party, you know you’ve got a problem. As an aside, did you know that almost 340,000 people have signed a petition demanding that Jeremy Hunt be removed from office? And he's just got a promotion instead. Nice one, Mrs M.
The new appointments signal a shift to the right in a party which has already surrendered what passes for its soul in that direction. After Justine Greening refused the role, Esther McVey was appointed as Head of the Department of Work and Pensions instead, which is like putting the Child Snatcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in charge of children’s services. A couple of years ago, Esther justified the proliferation of foodbanks in the UK. She thinks it’s only what you should expect. I agree, Esther, it’s only what you should expect when the DWP is leaving people without any means of feeding themselves. It’s only what you should expect when, like Esther, you have consistently voted to reduce benefits and to make life even more difficult for people who are already struggling. She has always voted against raising income tax on people who are paid more than £150,000 though, because it’s only poor people who should shoulder the burden of paying for the bankers’ mistakes. The last time Esther was in charge of the DWP people voted her out of office in the 2015 General Election. We can but hope that history will repeat itself soon.
Maybe as a sign of pre-empting trouble ahead, there are reports that Mrs May is also to appoint a minister for no-deal Brexit. The truth is there’s no need for the Prime Minister to appoint a minister for failure because all her cabinet are already doing that job. It’s the only thing that they’re any good at.

Endnote: where is the effective opposition when all this is going on? Why doesn't Labour have a massive lead in the Polls? Mrs M and her crew are offering an open-goal. Back of the net, Jezza, back of the net.

Monday, 8 January 2018

Blwyddyn Newydd yn Sir Benfro: Rhan olaf

Our last day of our present sojourn and, although the weather had improved, we decided we would spend it pottering about. And that's we did and enjoyed it very much. Here are a few photographs for the record.
A couple of people have asked us where we stay when we are in these parts. For the last 8 or 9 years, we've stayed in the extremely comfortable cottage called Glowty, owned by Jan and John Warren of  The fact that we've revisited so many times should tell you that it suits us very well and, judging from the comments in the Visitor's Book, so does everyone else who stays. Glowty and its neighbour, Ty Draw, are at the end of a lane in the small hamlet of Treleddyd Fawr, which has just 12 houses. It's about 2 miles outside of St David's itself and is well placed for everything we want to do. And it's quiet! And it's next to a footpath. And it's not far from Whitesands and the Coastal Footpath.
Another shot of the cathedral showing that, yes, it doesn't always rain and blow in St David's.
A wide angled shot of the choir stalls. I've sung from them, generally in the back row on the left, many, many times. Sadly never to be repeated but enjoyable while it lasted. All good things come to an end and better to have sung than not to have sung at all
The figures 3 and 6 on the clock face are a permanent reminder of my times here with the East Wickham Singers. Collectively we sponsored their regilding a couple of years ago.
We decided to drive around and follow the Saints and Stones tour which takes in a number of the most notable churches in the area. Our first stop was St. Hywel's Church in the hamlet of Llanhowel. It, the church, is early mediaeval in origin with some later additions and alterations. For example, the bellcote is thought to be from the 13th or 14th century. St Hywel? He seems to have been a scion of a noble family from Brittany but not a lot is known about his 'saintly' deeds. There are some legends that connect him with King Arthur and the Round Table.
A very pleasant interior with a 14th century skew passage on the left which, at one time, would have functioned as a squint. A feature of many of these small rural churches is that they appear to be well cared for, probably by older members of local families. Jump forward 5, 10 or 15 years and will they be as well cared for?
My first Snowdrop of the year. Be still my galanthophilic heart.
Of the relatively few gravestones, this is the one I found most interesting. 'Bernard Green. Artist of Excellence'. An intriguing inscription and one that is a challenge to the curious.
And it doesn't take much rooting around to come up with the fact that Bernard Green was a talented artist who moved to the locality in the 1970s and took inspiration from the Pembrokeshire landscape. His speciality was the linocut and, in particular, the reductive linocut which, apparently, was favoured by Picasso. It's worth looking up the details of how this is done because it's a fascinating technique and not one for those without a steady hand and a keen eye. One of the features of this technique is that it leads to multi-coloured linocuts. Here's a copy of one he did entitled 'St. Hywel's Church Llanhowel'. I like the precision and clarity of his work and could be tempted to buy one if I came across it.
The next church, which was not on the Saints and Stones trail, was St Teilo's at Llandeloy. Unfortunately, we were to be disappointed at a number of levels. It was closed, with no indication of how to contact any keyholder  and with a graveyard that had few, and no recent, burials. The church dates from the 12th century and by the 1820s was in ruins. It was rebuilt in the 1920s following Arts and Crafts principles, using the simplest available local materials and not copying the style of any particular period. It was finally closed in 2002 and then taken into the care of the rather poignantly named Friends of Friendless Churches. I've heard of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings and the Churches Conservation Trust but not the FFC. Apparently they take on the care of churches that no-one else wants. How sad it must be to be a Friendless Church. I'm not sure what it says about the surrounding community.
I've taken this image of the inside of St Teilo's from the internet and it looks fascinating. Full of interesting artifacts and stunning craftsmanship. We'll have to return to this when we are next in the area.
Our penultimate church visit was to St Nicholas's in St Nicholas. It is thought that there has been a church of some sort on or about this site since the end of Roman times, although the present structure was 'restored' by the Victorians. It is in the centre of the village and, according to their parish magazine, there is a plan to upgrade the interior so that it can be more easily used by the wider community.
A very pleasant interior with a squint (on the right) and a Norman font. It felt well cared for. There is a vacancy for the position of vicar. Any takers?
Our final church was St Catherine's at Granston, which was closed. Although there has been a church on the site since 'ancient times', the present building dates from the mid-1800s. It was a complete rebuilt and, apart from the foundations, nothing remains of any earlier structure. From the emerging growth, I would imagine the graveyard would look amazing when the snowdrops and daffodils are out.
The sun setting over Whitesands Bay. Quite different to when the hordes were there for the New Year's Day Swim. I know which ambience I prefer.
To end the day we dined at The Shed in Porthgain. Fish and chips voted 'best ever' by Mrs P and a truly excellent monkfish and king prawn curry for me. Yum! Oops, how could I forget our starters? Goat's cheese and beetroot salad for the lady and smoked haddock fishcakes for me. Double yum.
The tide was arriving as we were leaving.
Footnote or should it be wingnote? On the way back we stopped at Lawrenny Quay, near Mrs P's roots, for a short while. It's a tranquil spot on an estuary and, as it turned out, a good place for bird spotting. Here's a composite (from the top left) of curlew (with what looks like an injured wing), redshank, shelduck and little egret.