Sunday, 26 February 2017

A walk from Werrington Church

More new territory covered in this walk, with us venturing a few miles north of Launceston. A dry with sunny periods sort of day but, as we were in the aftermath of Storm Doris, the wind was quite strong in unsheltered parts.
Our starting point was Werrington Church and our just-under-five mile route took in fields and lanes in two river valleys, those of the Tamar and one of its tributaries, Tala Water.
Werrington church, dedicated to St Martin of Tours, originally stood within Werrington Park next to the Manor. When the manor was owned by Sir William Morice, much to the anger of the parishioners, he had the church pulled down in 1743 so that he could extend his bowling green! Sir William Morice's act of demolishing the Medieval church and the careless way he transferred the churchyard remains considerably outraged the parishioners. According to local tradition, a curse was placed on the Morice family, Sir William died childless and within 30 years the estate has passed from the family.
A tiled panel on the wall of the lodge to Werrington Park. I don't think it signifies anything other than being attractively decorative.
A plaque that piqued our interest. Keynotes Education? Turns out that it was, quite simply, the business address of an educational supplies firm. But what a nice place to work.
Another old chapel by the wayside. This one was the Bridgetown, Werrington Bible Christian Chapel. It's been closed for a while but it didn't look as if it's been converted into a dwelling (yet). A few more years and the contribution that chapels like this made to their local communities will be lost.
Druxton Bridge over the Tamar. Mediaeval with some later additions. Apparently it was sketched, but not painted, by Turner. I don't think that the tree is going to get under that arch without a struggle.
Wild daffodils on the river bank. There were lots of these coming into bloom at various places throughout our walk. These, combined with the snowdrops, make walking t this time of year very pleasant. What's next to look forward to? Bluebells at the end of April.
A Silver Birch growing out of a dead Hazel stump. It's interesting what the drive for survival produces.
I just can't walk past an old oak tree without wanting to tie a yellow ribbon around it.
Across the way from a trudge across a waterlogged field was Polapit Tamar House. A Grade II Listed Building, now converted into high-end apartments, it was built in 1866 for the Coode family who owned lots of the land hereabouts. The original structure (right side, in the picture) dates from 1866 and the remainder (left side) from 1903. It is said that Mr R C Coode commissioned the extension for his daughter's twenty-first birthday; its principal room is an oak-panelled ballroom with ornately carved chimney-pieces. Try as I might, I can't find out the origin of the name Polapit, although centuries ago it was known as Poolapit.
Tala Water - Bude Canal aqueduct - stonework detail
After a little scrambling from the road, I managed to get this shot of part of the Bude Canal as it was taken over Tala Water in an aquaduct. The canal was built in the 1820s to carry sea sand and lime inland for use as fertiliser and the original canal system spanned 35 miles reaching just outside of Launceston. The canal closed in 1901 when competition from the railway, bringing cheap manufactured fertilisers, made it uneconomical. Today, roughly 2 miles of canal remain filled with water and make a very nice waterside walk from the centre of Bude. At this part of its route, it is reduced to a barely discernible indentation.
A pleasant and relatively benign landscape looking south east towards Dartmoor. Jump back two centuries and the scene would have been much more animated. In the foreground the Bude Canal would be busy with traffic and, in the distance, the mines of Dartmoor would be producing a pall of steam and smoke. And let's not forget that, at that time, farming was very labour intensive so there would be many people, and animals, working in the fields.
St Martin of Tours taking a tour around the outside of the church?
A lofty but rather bare interior. There are, however, some very interesting stained glass windows but the photographs I took didn't come out well.
A fairly typical but rather featureless Victorian barrel ceiling. Nice carpentry but a few carvings would make it more interesting.

Monday, 20 February 2017

The Goodameavy Trek

A rather longer than expected walk with our monthly group this week. The promised "around 6 miles" turned out to be 9 1/2 and 9 1/2 tough ones at that. Lots of ups and downs, with the emphasis very much on the ups. But, with good weather and some new parts on the western edge of Dartmoor to discover, what was there to complain about? Apart from the ups, that is.
Our figure of eight route started and ended at Lower Goodameavy Bridge. We headed south along the Meavy to Dewerstone Bridge and then followed the Plym down to Bickleigh Bridge. From there we headed back north along the Plym Valley path to Clearbrook and completed a loop via Hoo Meavy, Wigford Down and Goodameavy.
This looks like an embankment but is actually the bed of an abandoned mineral railway. Abandoned because the landowners of the next stretch refused permission for it to go any further. That was a lot of wasted effort back in the 1800s but not uncommon with speculative railway building.
River Plym looking relatively benign. There hadn't been that much heavy rain in the preceding few days.
I liked these tree roots wrapped around a large boulder. I think it was originally from an old hedge.
Across the valley is the parish church of St Edward, King and Martyr, Shaugh Prior. Rather shamefully, this is one that we have never visited even though we've been in the area many, many times. It dates from the 11th century although what you see is from a 15th century rebuild. Famous sons of Shaugh Prior? Not that many by all accounts but there is one of interest: Joseph Palmer (1716–88), an American general during the American Revolutionary War, was born here. Google him and you'll be surprised at what someone from such a sleepy place got up to.
Spring flower 1: Lesser Celandine. Not that many around but a good sign that the season is changing.
Spring flower 2: Snowdrops. A sight to gladden every galanthophile's heart. Lots and lots of these around.
Scarlet Elf Cap. Not rare but not common and can be difficult to spot as they like places where they get covered in fallen leaves. Starts off as a cup which flattens with maturity. One reference source says that these are quite edible and hold their shape when cooked. One recipe suggests eating them raw whilst using them as an edible receptacle for other savouries. As they are fairly small (this one was about 1 cm across), it would take a lot of effort to get more than a decent mouthful. It takes all sorts, I guess.
Just one of the viaducts on what is now the Plym Valley Trail. It runs along the bed of the old railway from Plymouth to Yelverton (for Princetown) and Tavistock (for London) which opened in 1859 and closed in 1962. The original viaducts were made of wood on brick piers and the piers are still visible if you lean over the parapets in the middle of the viaduct.
A frisson of excitement when we walked through the Leighbeer Tunnel. It's about 1/2 mile and is reasonably well lit. Work on building the railway and the tunnel began during August 1856. Mr Brampton, the original engineer, died suddenly in 1857 and was replaced by one Isambard Kingdom Brunel. I wonder where I've heard that name before?
Here's something interesting to bear in mind if you are ever in the tunnel. If you look at all the railway refuges down the sides you will notice they are all covered in bars to prevent people hiding in them (spoilsports!). But one of them is actually a fair sized tunnel that you wouldn't spot it without a torch or knowing that it was there. The tunnel was an exploratory one dug into the hillside when they came across copper while digging the main Leighbeer tunnel. It, the Bickleigh Vale Phoenix Mine, opened at the same time as the railway line which must have proved tricky! It was only operated for around 3 years as not as much copper as expected was found. You can clearly see the copper as the bluey green on the tunnel walls.
Leighbeer Tunnel - a moment captured when cyclists weren't flying through. Question: why don't they use bells to warn walkers to get out of their way? Or do they prefer to knock people over?
Oh look, we said, these look like miners' cottages. And indeed they were. Their age attesting to the long history of mining in this area.
Yes, that is the sea in the distance. We are looking due west out of Plymouth Sound. Those with keen eyes will be able to make out the Eddystone Lighthouse on the horizon to the left of the plume of smoke. I'd estimate that's about 25 miles from where I was standing when I took this shot. Rame Head in Cornwall is the ridge to the right.
The wayside Urgles Cross on the edge of Wigford Down. I couldn't find a reliable estimate of its age but, from what I can gather, what is there now is an early 20th Century reproduction of the long lost original waymark.
Joy of joys. We came back to a car with a flat battery. Not a disaster as it was sorted out by the RAC within an hour. That's not the RAC man poking under the bonnet. That's Kim, affecting a level of mechanical knowledge he admits he does not possess.

Friday, 17 February 2017

If the Narcisstic Personality Disorder cap fits...

Since the rise of Donald Trump, the term “narcissistic” has been cropping up with boring regularity. As for most people, I have a superficial understanding of what it means, so it was interesting to read in this week's edition of the New Statesman, a piece by Dr Phil Whittaker, the resident medic. In this he looks at what he describes as 'the troubling psychological health problem of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD)'. People with NPD, he writes, have (the following) characteristic set of personality traits. 

First, they have a deeply held sense of specialness and entitlement. Male NPD sufferers frequently present as highly egotistical, with an unshakeable sense of their superiority and importance. The affected person believes he is deserving of privileged treatment and expects it as a right from those around them.

Second, NPD sufferers have little or no capacity for empathy, and usually relate to other people as objects (as opposed to thinking, feeling beings) whose sole function is to meet the narcissist’s need for special treatment and admiration – known as “supply”. In order to recruit supply, NPD sufferers become highly skilled at manipulating people’s perceptions of them, acting out what is called a “false self” – the glittering high achiever, the indefatigable do-gooder, the pitiable victim. When surrounded by supply, the NPD sufferer relishes the waves of positive regard washing over them. Equally, when another person destabilises that supply (by criticising or questioning the narcissist’s false self) this is highly threatening, and the NPD sufferer will go to practically any lengths to prevent a destabiliser adversely influencing other people’s perceptions of the narcissist.

The third characteristic is termed “splitting”, where the world is experienced in terms of two rigid categories – either Good or Bad – with no areas of grey. As long as others are meeting the narcissist’s need for supply, they are Good, and they find themselves idealised and showered with reciprocal positive affirmation – a process called “love-bombing”. However, if someone criticises or questions the narcissist’s false self, that person becomes Bad, and is subjected to implacable hostility.

One of the many troublesome aspects of NPD is the invariable lack of insight. A narcissist’s experience of the world is essentially: “I am special; some people love me for this, and are Good; some people hate me for it, and are Bad.” Not uncommonly, health professionals end up helping those who have had the misfortune to enter into a supply relationship with an NPD sufferer. Narcissism is one of the most frequent factors in intimate partner and child abuse, as well as workplace bullying. The narcissist depends on the positive affirmation of others. They use others to shore themselves up and lash out at those who threaten this precarious balance. And they leave a trail of damaged people in their wake.

And having read what Phil Whittaker had to say, I watched some of the rather bizarre press conference DJT gave yesterday through this prism. Try it yourself and listen carefully to the language he uses. It fits. It's certainly not for me to make any medical diagnosis but...omg! It occurs to me that many governments around the world are employing psychologists to analyse each and every performance by DJT. "Tell us", the leaders ask, "how do we deal with a person with these personality traits?". Perhaps Mother Theresa had already had this advice when she scuttled off to the White House last month? Perhaps she had been told that the very best way to get on the good side of a narcissist is to massage the ego? And what better way to do this than with the extravagant pomp and circumstance of a full blown State Visit? Perhaps we've all underestimated her: not arse licking or brown nosing, just plain psychology. Nice one, Mother T.


Monday, 13 February 2017

Public Enemy #2356

All the talk about the imposition of a blanket ban on some groups seeking entry into the USA brings to mind some experiences I had with the US Immigration Service a few years back.

I had been travelling to the US for the better part of a decade on a visa, which gave me multiple entries for business purposes for an indefinite period. My entry points varied and I became very familiar with airports at Boston, JFK, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Charlotte. I must have passed through US Immigration dozens of times without any problems. That is, until, beguiled by Richard Branson's Virgin's promises, I took a flight into Newark, New Jersey for an onward connection to Raleigh Durham in North Carolina. My entry went along these lines.

* I walk up to Immigration counter with the expectation of the usual off-hand stamping of my passport (what charm school did they use for the officials?) and then through to baggage reclaim.
* Immigration officer types my details into his computer, does a double take and then calls his supervisor over. They go into a huddle for a while and then I'm asked to step out of line and follow the supervisor.
* I'm taken to a windowless office/cubicle and, with no explanation given, told to wait.
* After what seemed ages, two men in suits came in and starting asking me questions about who I was, what my background was and where I was going. They could not or would not tell me why they were asking the questions, just that some 'irregularities' had been noticed.
* At this point I was quite sanguine and was confident that it would all be sorted out quickly. A minor bureaucratic glitch, that's all.
* They left the room and, again after a long wait, two different men in different suits came in and asked me exactly the same questions as the first two. Again no explanation was given and, when I raised the question of my fast approaching connecting flight, I was told that I would be with them until the 'irregularities' has been solved and, anyway, my suitcase had already been taken off the 'plane. They left the room.
* At this point I remember beginning to feel decidedly uneasy and the thought of being refused entry crossed my mind.
* After another long wait, yet another pair of besuited gentlemen came in and, guess what, asked me the same questions. Again no explanations but they did say that they needed to check a few details with 'someone' before they had finished with me. They left the room.
* At this point deportation seemed to be a real option facing me and I was wondering how I was going to explain that to the company I was working for.
* Then a single officer, with something approaching empathy, came in and took me through where things stood. They were not happy with some entries about me on their system, but couldn't tell me what the issues were. If I could get someone in authority in my company to vouch for me, they would let me enter 'this once' and I'd have to report to the US Embassy in London as soon as I got back to the UK after my visit. I only had one US contact number with me (this was before the days of mobile phones) and was allowed to give him a call. He took the message and said he'd speak with someone higher up in the organisation and get back as soon as he could. This happened pretty quickly and, after a conversation between Immigration and the company representative, I was allowed through.
* As luck would have it, getting another flight to Raleigh Durham was straightforward and I got there some ten hours after I should have, tired but relieved.
* My US hosts were gracious and apologetic for the 'Newark Incident' but, as I could tell them nothing of the reasons why I was questioned, we moved on with whatever I was over there for. I can't remember it ever being mentioned again.

Back in the UK I dutifully went to the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square to see if I could sort things out. Eventually I was granted an interview with a consulate official who was not that helpful and cancelled my visa with a hint of satisfaction. Same charm school as the immigration people? The 'without prejudice' reference on the stamp meant that whatever the issue underlying the problem, if it were resolved, I could still gain entry to the USA if I applied.
For the next few years, every time I needed to travel to the US I had to go to the Embassy to be interviewed personally and get formal permission. It was inconvenient but not a disaster. Eventually, after around 3 years, I found out, by sneaking a glance at a computer screen when I shouldn't have, that the root of my problems lay with some student political activities I engaged in during my undergraduate time (1966 to 1969) in Aberystwyth University. Yes, I was involved in a number of leftish groups but, good grief, this was Aberystwyth not Oxford or Cambridge. The downfall of the Western World was certainly not going to start in Aberystwyth but, having said that, I've always thought that our sit-in protest at the Post Office hastened the end of the Vietnam War. So, maybe, I shouldn't underestimate the threat we were perceived as posing. Notwithstanding this fantasy, no-one could or would explain to me why it took 20 years, from 1969 until 1987, for my murky past to catch up with me. And then, out of the blue, after almost three years, someone somewhere decided that I was not a potential enemy of the state and I got my multiple entry visa back. And after that, absolutely no problems with getting into the USA.

There are a few things about this whole affair that have always puzzled me: who collected and passed on the information about me from Aberystwyth? And how was the connection made between D Parsons Student in Aberystwyth and D Parsons Scientist in Kent? Was this information gathered by the US or passed to them by the UK? Maybe I ought to try a Freedom of Information request to find out. Maybe one day I will.

And does the above give me any special insight into the way that immigrants might be treated by the Trump regime? I'd be fooling myself if I thought that.

Friday, 10 February 2017

A walk from St Cleer

A clear, bright but cold day for a walk starting and ending in St Cleer, a large village about 10 miles from home. Guess what? It was dry. Who says it rains incessantly in Cornwall?
Just under 5 miles and a mixture of tracks, footpaths, fields and quiet country lanes. Nothing too challenging but a great day to be out and about.
St Cleer parish church is dedicated to Saint Clarus. Founded circa 800, the present building is largely Norman with the tower being added as part of early fifteenth century alterations. And that was it until the Victorians did a bit of 'restoration' in the late nineteenth century. A charming little church and one where some of Mrs P's forebears attended. 
St Clarus was an Englishman who went to Cornwall (note that Cornwall and England were different places back then) to preach to the inhabitants in the 8th century. He founded the church and lived nearby doing saintly things. However this earthly life caught up with him when he rejected the advances of a local chieftainess who had fallen in love with him. When she continued to pester him, he fled to France where he lived in an isolated hermitage. The enraged woman had him pursued and then murdered (he was beheaded). Hell hath no fury like a women scorned.
Obviously a WW1 casualty but not a standard CWGC headstone. This lead me to think that J (ohn) Wilton had died in the UK and not in a battle zone. A little research reveals he was wounded in France but died of his wounds in Woolwich Military Hospital. For the record he was 41 when he died and was the son of Emma Jane and Sampson Wilton.
The St Cleer War Memorial. Look closely and you'll see the name of P.Jenkins. This is Percy Jenkins, who is also commemorated on the memorials in Stoke Climsland, Golberdon and Stoke Climsland church. He had connections with all of these places, albeit the one for Golberdon seems to be the fact that he went to chapel there. His mother was born in St Cleer and he was born in Stoke Climsland.
Those were the days when every reasonably sized settlement had its own dedicated policeman/policemen and police station (and they were all men back then). Nowadays most police stations have been closed and to see a police officer locally is a rarity. This one in St Cleer, dating from the mid-1800s, has been closed for a while and is now a private dwelling. Of course, when thinking about the early days of this building, we should bear in mind that it was built when the local mining boom was at its highest. The population was much, much bigger than now and full of all sorts of itinerants. It really was the Wild West every now and again, especially on pay day!
I just liked the contrasting colours of nature on this tree stump. Moss, fungi and lichens all blending together.
Clear skies and far reaching views aplenty on this walk. Here we are looking west towards St Austell. But the sun belies the sub-freezing temperatures when the wind got up.
My first lambs of the Spring. A good sign that Winter is coming to an end - possibly.
An interesting stretch of the walk when we laboured uphill along the bed of a stream cum footpath.
But it was worth it when we came to drier parts and were able to walk under a canopy of branches. It's an old track leading from one mine to another.
 Just down the road from the church is the mediaeval St Cleer Holy Well. The well is said to have been used as a boussening or ducking pool to allow for complete immersion, obviously before the large metal grid was put in place. The waters of the well are reputed to be good for the curing of insanity, rickets and epilepsy. Apparently there is an annual well dressing ceremony and locals and visitors join with children from the village school to bedeck the well with flowers and ring hand bells. Local mythology tells us that attempts have been made to remove and cart away stones from the chapel, but mysterious power has always returned them at night! Spooky, eh?
The cover of the well with its statue of St Clarus (looking rather haunted as if hiding from his admirer) and the corner pinnacles echoing the design of the church tower.
Another sign of Spring, Crocuses in the graveyard back at the start.