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.

Monday, 6 February 2017

Vicars' todgers Part 2

If nothing else, the recent Church of England's House of Bishops Report into Marriage and Same Sex Relationships reminds us that the todger stands tall in the conservative imagination of parts of the church. Like the dark tower of Mordor, it looms over all else: clouding judgement and blotting out the light. Those who attempt to pretend otherwise always end up stumbling over their own hypocrisy.

It is not true that all we ever think about is sex, protested one apologist in a TV interview. Without a blush, she then went on to demonstrate that she could think of little else. Society should tolerate men and women whose attraction to their own sex is not expressed in sexual relations, she explained, as she began her discussion of vicars' todgers. If a vicar uses his penis for sex "without a procreative purpose", however, then out of the church he must go. Her public obsession with what polite people once called "private parts" would matter less were it not shared by all religions and too many in the right-wing press and Tory party.

To be fair, the Anglican church is far more liberal than orthodox Judaism, Catholicism and all versions of Islam. It concedes that a vicar can be in a civil partnership but if he wishes his superiors to elevate him to a bishopric, he must submit his sex life to cross-examination. Only if he can tell them he abstains from sex will they promote him.

These are questions that shame the interrogator more than the interrogated. Imagine if you went for a job and the interviewer said that you were ideally suited for the post, but you had to tell them who you had sex with and when the dirty deed had last occurred before they could hire you. Why would anyone who wasn't a voyeur want to ask about that? I know it is dangerous to generalise on a subject as vast and complicated as human sexuality, but I have gleaned from my admittedly sheltered life that men who are, as they say, "secure" in their heterosexuality, have little interest in what their homosexual friends do in bed and that indifference is reciprocated. Whenever I hear conservatives announce that equality for gays "undermines marriage", I think: my marriage can take it, what's so wrong with yours?

It may be 2017 but homophobia still flows from many sources. It can be voyeuristic, impertinent, hypocritical, prurient and covertly envious: it can be ignorant, mobbish and servile to authority. In the end, it does not matter. No one has the right to deny equal treatment to a fellow citizen for whatever motive.

And shame on the Archbishop of Canterbury for saying after the appointment of the suffragan bishop of Grantham at the end of last year that his (the appointee) sexuality was completely irrelevant to his office. If that was the case, Justin, why was he subjected to a sexquisition during the interview process? We can do without Trumpian distortion over here, thank you very much.
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Friday, 3 February 2017

Vicars' todgers Part 1

Vicars' todgers? Are you wondering what an earth this blog is going to be about? What is DNP ranting about this time around? I'll confess that, for a while, I wasn't sure either. Here's why.

At any one time I've got a long list of ideas (some sensible but many just plain daft) in a draft folder (there are around 30 there at the moment. Joy of joys for my readers). Every now and again, when I'm stuck for a theme, I'll take a look and see if there's anything there that is worth a little more work. The titles are minimal and sometimes I come across some that, at one time, must have seemed important. But now? Often the raison d'etre is lost in the mists of time. Here are some current examples to show what I mean.

Shame on you. Something about something that somebody else had done? Something I did that was wrong? Who knows.

One year-old birthday party. Whose? And what was so notable about it? Sorry, grandchild X, I've completely forgotten why it made my list.

Good grief. No, triple good grief. This one sounded interesting but, apart from the title, absolutely no clues to what was intended. Obviously a missed opportunity to vent my spleen.

Sockless in Gaza. Absolutely no idea about this one. Just the title to taunt me. Aldous Huxley? Haven't thought about him for years. Was it about Grandad Parsons time there in WW1? Maybe, but the moment has passed.

Did I ever tell you about.....? Obviously not because it's still in the draft folder. This could apply to so many things that strike me as worth bringing to the worlds' attention.

And now it's back to where this post started, Vicars' Todgers. This one dates from early last year and, prompted by an item on the news last week, I know exactly what I might have written about had I got round to it then. It's still topical (sort of) so it's time for a post entitled 'Vicars' Todgers'. Can you guess what it will be about? Watch this space for Vicars' Todgers Part 2.

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Feeding the Darkness

Sunday afternoon. Lounge in front of the TV? Go for a walk? Potter in the garden? No! Let's go to the Old Chapel in Calstock and watch a performance by the Journeymen Theatre Company of their production, Feeding the Darkness. It was described as "shining a light on State sanctioned torture through story, poem and song". Admittedly not everyone's idea of wiling away a weekend afternoon but, difficult as the subject matter is, it's something that we should all be aware of. For if we are not, then we are, indeed, 'Feeding the Darkness'
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The production, sponsored by Quaker Concern for the Abolition of Torture, was a two-hander, written and performed by Lynn and David Morris. In eleven short sequences, based on actual transcripts or verbal accounts, they took us through various aspects of torture. And at the same time, reminded us of Article 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. It was not sensationalist but matter-of-fact, stomach-churning and thought provoking. If it comes your way, take time to go and see it. You'll come away ashamed at our governments complicity in many countries. You'll also come away better informed and better able to engage with the proponents of torture.

Speaking of whom, one interesting snippet they passed on to us was the fact that, since the elevation of Donald Trump, calls for them to perform their 'show' have exceeded anything they've had in the past. And I find that both heartening and incredibly sad. 

Saturday, 28 January 2017

A Walk from Bray Shop

A 6.5 mile walk with our U3A Thursday group. Starting and ending in the hamlet of Bray Shop, about 2 miles from home, we ventured into parts of our locality that we'd never previously visited. It was cold, with the temperatures hovering not far above zero, and misty with none of the long range views over Bodmin Moor that would have been possible.
The route. A mixture of quiet lanes, footpaths across fields and some ancient 'green lanes'. And the two ascents shown on the elevation profile were as steep as they look.
An example of the lack of views on this walk. On a clearer day Roughtor and Brown Willy, Cornwall's highest point, on Bodmin Moor would be on the horizon.
One of the two patches of snowdrops I noticed. They are not quite fully open yet but can't be far off. Absolutely no daffodils were to be seen or, for that matter, any other flowers.
I was surprised to come across this graveyard at Lanhargy, just half a mile outside of Bray Shop. It was well kept and, as there were a few relatively recent burials, I assume that that it is still consecrated.
Next door is the original Lanhargy Methodist Chapel, now fully restored and occupied as a dwelling.
Spot the difference. I came across this photograph of the chapel as it was presented in the estate agent's details of its sale in the late 1900s. It had been derelict for many years before it was finally sold. Conversion is a much better option than demolition, a fate that fell to at least four other (Downhouse, Kelly Bray, Luckett and Monks' Cross) chapels.
Lanhargy chapel dates from, guess when, 1802, although the present building is the result of several rebuilds during its lifetime. An adjacent building had been used as a Sunday School.
Just down the lane from Lanhargy is Bray Shop with its own chapel. Another one converted into a dwelling, this conversion has been done since our time down here. Services were being held here until the early part of the new century. It started out as a Bible Christian chapel who were an offshoot of the Methodist Church, the predominant form of Christianity in Cornwall during the 1700s and 1800s. This group were also known as Bryanites after their founder, William Bryan and were strongest in the UK in North East Cornwall and North Devon .  They lasted as a separate denomination until the early 1900s and then were gradually incorporated into mainstream Methodism. There were many variants of Methodism in the early days, each one with its own chapel. Bray Shop is a good example of this: a very small hamlet that managed to support two chapels for a century or so. If people didn't like the brand of Methodism being promoted locally, they went off and built their own chapel. At one time Stoke Climsland parish, which never had a population of more than 1600, boasted seven chapels and one church. Nowadays it has one of each.
Bray Shop chapel has its own burial ground attached. It's quite well maintained and, as for Lanhargy, there is evidence of recent burials, mainly from just one or two local families. I guess they like to maintain the family tradition and be laid to rest with their forebears. I wonder how long graveyards such as these will be maintained? I'm quite familiar with this one as I've spent time here tracking down the headstone of the parents of one William Conibear, who died in WW1 and who is listed on our local war memorial.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Look behind you

I've been rummaging through a couple of shoeboxes of old photographs I took over when my mother died last year. Amongst the familiar faces, I came across the above photograph of a young girl sat on a bench within one of those municipal shelters you often find in rain-soaked Britain. The shelter looks vaguely familiar to and I'd hazard a guess that it may have been along the seafront in Hove or Brighton. The young girl? I've really no idea but, if I'm correct in assuming that it was taken in Brighton, she may well have been one of my father's cousins. One of Rita, Audrey or Zelie Kent?
Look closely and a mysterious head appears within the lower left frame of the window behind the shelter. Could this, perhaps, be someone who had been forced out of this photo opportunity but was intent on leaving his mark on recorded history nevertheless? Perhaps it was Cousin Cyril? Or maybe even my father? It was the sort of thing he'd do.

Digital techniques allow us, of course, to selectively enlarge that part we are interested in, in order to obtain more clues as to who this interloper may be. An initial attempt provides us with few clues - merely an out-of-focus shape, reminiscent of a human head.

Technology, however, is nothing if it is not smart these days, and there are many software programmes available that will automatically enhance images of such poor quality. Making use of one such programme I recently obtained from a Russian supplier, I came up with something rather surprising, and not a little sinister. I will say no more other than you saw it here first. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

To Trewortha Village sans camera

What a day for a walk with our monthly group: dry, clear but cold. And what a route: up onto the Twelve Men's Moor area of Bodmin Moor, heading for the long abandoned mediaeval village at Trewortha and passing through Bronze Age settlements and 18/19/20th century industrial archaeology. Quite a tough out and back 8 miler. What a shame that I'd forgotten to put a memory card in my camera and all the views and interesting sights went unrecorded. Still, they are lodged in my memory and are not lost entirely.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Portscatho January 2017: Part 5

All good things come to an end and so did our sojourn on the Roseland Peninsular. We took a chance with the weather and finished off with two shorter walks to join up the dots between previously completed stretches. Walk 1 (after a Magical Mystery Tour on a Number 50 bus) was a 4 mile linear one from Veryan back to Portscatho. Walk two was a circular 4 miler from Portloe to Portholland and back to Portloe via the Coastal Footpath. Hey, no rain on either of them.
I like coming across the unusual in unexpected places and this wasn't far from the start of our first walk just outside of Veryan. A cheery piece of burnished metalwork by the footpath as it passed through an old mill in a wooded valley down to the sea.
Looking east across the sands of Pendower Beach towards Nare Head, which we've already walked a while back.
Looking west at the end of our walk towards Portscatho across Porthcurnick Beach.
The Hidden Hut at Porthcurnick. I've read that it has a cult following for its food and foodie events in the summer months. It's not that hidden but it's a bit of a walk to get there.
And on to Walk 2. The next three shots, taken within a minute of each other, illustrate what makes walking the Coastal Footpath so interesting and varied. Shot 1: looking out to sea at Perbagus Point above Portholland Cove.
Shot 2: a few degrees to the right of Shot 1.
Shot 3: a few more degrees to the right of Shot 2.
Flowers by the wayside: an early Common Violet.
Flowers by the wayside: early flowering Pasties (Crimpus oggyensis). Distinguished by their diaphanous petals and rich pseudo-stamen clusters designed to tempt passing foragers. A rare find and a case of 'finders' keepers', in clear contravention of the 1968 Wildlife Act which prohibits the picking and eating of wildflowers.
Looking west up the coast with Gull Rock clearly visible off Nare Head.
A Robin lurking in the bracken.
A Grey Heron lurking on the rocks. It's not often that we see them on the seashore. It's frozen in concentration and will stay perfectly still by the water's edge for long lengths of time, searching for fish. Grey Herons seem to have an uncanny ability to freeze, all concentration focused on their quarry. I wonder what it was waiting for. Crabs? Small fish? Shrimps? Probably anything it could catch.
Looking down on the end of our second walk, Portloe. A small fishing/tourist village featured as St Gweep in a rather strange comedy in the 1990s called Wild West and starring Dawn French and Catherine Tate. It once had an RNLI lifeboat (circa 1870) but they discovered that the weather that caused demands on their services came from the direction that prevented them getting the lifeboat out of the harbour. They persevered for a few years and then decided to pack their oars away. Nowadays, people are more likely to have heard of the gastropub near the slipway, the Lugger, than Portloe itself.
I liked the undulating handrail on the side of the footpath as it dropped into the village.
One of the guides to this particular walk had the strange instruction: 'turn right at the duck'. Know we know, even though the duck looks suspiciously like a gull. To avoid confusing any rambling ornithologists, perhaps the walk guide should be revised to say 'turn right at the gull'?
She seems to be saying "I'll keep an eye out for you for when you are next passing". We might just do that.