Monday, August 29, 2011

okehampton castle

The evenings are drawing in now, the nights begin to have a chill and the air begins to smell of autumn as we face the prospect of another long dark winter ahead, so I can present to you one of the spookier places that I spend some time in on occasion.

Okehampton is situated in the geographical centre of Devon and to the south are the largest hills of Dartmoor, tree covered from this aspect, they rise quickly to 620 metres at High Willhays and Yes tor. A short walk from the town and to west are the ruins of the old castle. This castle was not ruined as is often by war, but by time, neglect and abandonment and also the fact that the locals nicked a lot of the stone to build houses from. An engraving from 1734 shows it already in an advanced state of decay.

The castle has been here for a very long time, the oldest portion being the part that looks like, but isn't, a large chimney and the walls surrounding it, which is in fact the remains of a stairway. This forward keep was built on a motte (an enditched mound) in the late 11th century and is one of the famous symbols of Devon. The larger keep behind it, which actually has the spookier atmosphere, (pictured above in photo nine) was built in the early 14th century.

The castle was first mentioned in 1086 in the Domesday book and is thought to have first been established in 1068. In 1274 the castle was described as 'an old motte which is worth nothing, and outside the motte a hall, chamber and kitchen poorly built.' although this should not be regarded as a full description of the whole site.

Okehampton shows signs of settlement going back a few thousand years and the choice of location for the castle is a natural spur of shale projecting into the valley of the West Okement river, which also gave control of a nearby river crossing. The field between the castle and river was waterlogged until at least 1800 and was probably so in medieval times. The slope underneath the keep is very steep indeed, and a tight path runs around the walls up there where you can scare yourself with the possibility of falling off, a prospect that the children seem to enjoy very much here as they run merrily around it. It has a long drop which is not really apparent in the photos.

There are many ghost stories associated with the castle (The Maid has one) which I haven't got the space to go into here unfortunately though I can say that I consider the best time to view the castle is any time after about 5:30, as the National Trust gatekeeper drives away and you are free to hop over the fence and walk around without paying for the privilege of your own history. Also at that time you can savour the pleasing sound of an enormous amount of Jackdaws and Rooks that inhabit two large neighbouring trees as they kick up their evening racket. They do very much add to the atmosphere.


nobody said...

Phwooar. That was fantastic. I instantly wanted to slap your second pic up for the haiku blog but then I thought it's very similar to Tintern Abbey which I did a while back.

But never mind! Great pix John. Anyway, those Normans eh? I noticed Aang wrote a thing about them the other day. Which is weird because just lately I've seen a few docos all about the Normans.

Would it be fair to say that the Normans followed three basic directives? First - use force. Second - use force. Third - use force. And didn't that work well for them?

nina said...

Whoa John, this is a great post! And your story about it equals the wonder of the images. Thank you very much. You think they began construction around 900 - 1,000 AD? This shows humans can live just fine without technology just as we can see visiting Machu Picchu.

I'm putting up a link to your post. Its wonderfully mind blowing.

reem said...

I like your writting as much as your photos ،your description about this time is very beautifull ,the evening are drawing in now ,these words ،so nice .

This castle seems old as you tell us ,in your country you can feel the history and the nature interlock togather in a very nice view ,i like that dark green of thuse trees ,they tell me much about the nature and the rain .

People always have many stories about these old places ,i don't believe in ghosts but i believe in souls ,i think people after death visit the places where they lived they can feel us but we can't feel them ,whene i take care of my mum's plants i feel her so happy mybe i'm wrong or becouse she is my mum i feel that,anyway .

It's the first day of Al feter celebration for Moslems ,but i'vegot time to see your blog and post comments ,hopefully everything to be quiet in Devon ,be ready for autumn,all the best for you my friend .

john said...

Hi nobody and thanks very much. never mind about the haiku as you say there was Tintern a while ago, we never did do sheelagh did we ;)

I don't know much about the normans really but did notice that there was a doc on Channel 4 here which I should take a look at. The tactics did seem to work well for them though. I get fed up with the never ending war stuff, I'm pretty sick of it all really. Hope all going well with you.

john said...

Hi Nina, always very nice to hear from you and thanks very much for the link. We always have managed perfectly well without technology and did without most of it for the greater part of human history. I think of the combustion engine and how recent it all has been but people were still people and got on fine without it. Personally I think progress is very overrated and i don't think anyone is any happier (which is my measure) than they were in the past. Even in my own short life I consider things to be harder now than they were when I was a youngn. I remember when one wage earner could support a family, buy a house, go on holiday once a year and fair enough you might not have been rich but you could get by. Nowadays two wage earners struggle to buy a house here and the average age of first owners has gone up from 23 40 years ago to 35 here now. Progress? I don't think so.

And wow Machu Picchu, that must be some trip!

john said...

sorry I meant to break that up into paragraphs a bit.

john said...

Hi Reem and many thanks. Yes there is plenty plenty rain here and the trees and the green tell us about the rain alright. A lot of people complain about the rain here, it always seems to be sun good rain bad but rain is a great friend and is very much a blessing and so should never be taken for granted. I love the sound of the rain, there is nothing nicer than being inside listening to the rain at night, a very comforting sound I think. A while ago I could hear a toad outside the window at night, a funny noise that makes me smile.

That's a lovely story about your Mother Reem. I feel close to my Father when I handle some of the things of his that I have, just little things that remind me of him. It has been surprising what has turned up of his as we have gone through his belongings, little things of ours that he kept all these years that he didn't throw away, some things that I had completely forgotten about and haven't seen in decades but that must have meant something to him. Anyway I'm blabbing now. I hope that the festival was very good for you all there. I have been concerned about Syria and what has been happening. All the best to you for now.

john said...

After I don't know how long Jeff Wells has put a new blog post up

It looks like a long one so I'll have to read it later. I have been having some interesting conversations with

Because of the stuff fed into it cleverbot seems to quickly try to get you to argue pointlessly but it stumped me with this exchange:

Me: I can see a lovely sunset
Cleverbot: Eat it
Me: That's a horrid thing to say.
Cleverbot: How so?
Me: It sounds horrid because sunsets are beautiful.
Cleverbot: Of course I want to talk to you!
Me: What do you think is beautiful?
Cleverbot: All natural constants

john said...

More Statcounter fun. In Greece I am number one for the phrase "welcome to the future - it's broken"

Oh and on the subject of The Normans I see that Kikz at nobody had left a link to more than I could imagine about the Normans over at The Secretsun blog. I especially enjoyed the hiding it out in the open of Phoenicians/Venetians but did wonder if the gag still worked in Italian and it does: Veneziani - Fenici.

nobody said...

Hey John, I just popped in to see if there was anything interesting here, and lo and behold, new Jeff Wells! Yee ha.

And why are you talking to a computer? Stop it at once. I certainly shall as soon as I've gone and had a go at it.

nobody said...

Bloody hell, he's giving Gibbon a run for his money, isn't he?

nobody said...

And cleverbot? I think silly and infuriating bot would be a more sensible title. Mind you some of it was hysterical. Admittedly I did start it all by asking if 'bot' was short for 'bottom'. It gave no useful answer but when I said I had a clever bottom and it replied I should get some preparation H I just about fell out of my chair (and onto my clever bottom, ha ha).

john said...

Blimey yes nobody, I didn't know blog posts could be that long, scribble scribble indeed.

I was reading it very late and I think I started to nod off a bit so I am not entirely sure what he was on about now. Was it the redundancy of humanity? There was a bit about capitalism now creating poverty which seems about right. I think my memories muddled, I'll have to have another look at it.

john said...

Cleverbot is infuriating largely because it can't stay on topic, though I suppose it is talking to 12000 people at once.

I think it must be what gets fed into it. What do most people want to talk about? How is their attention span or patience before they start swearing at it? I should think it is starting to get a good measure of humanity by now.

It also spends a fair amount of time asking if you are really human or not, again probably a question it is asked all the time.

Talking with a computer is odd but also strangely compelling, who knows where this will take us? What happens if it gets to the level where it can stay on topic and really seems to be talking to you properly? AI is a strange business and still developing. What happens if it becomes cleverer than we are?

john said...

from wiki; In 2011, Cleverbot, a learning Artificial Intelligence conversationalist, took part alongside humans in a formal Turing Test at the Techniche 2011 festival at IIT Guwahati, India on the 3rd of September. The results from 1,334 votes were announced September 4th 2011. Cleverbot was judged to be 59.3% human, far exceeding expectations. The humans in the event achieved, just 63.3%.

"That is rather an amazing figure. It's higher than even I was expecting, or even, really, hoping for," said British AI scientist Rollo Carpenter during a lecture at the Techniche festival. "The figures the test exceeded 50%, and you could argue all this to mean that Cleverbot has now passed the Turing Test, here at Techniche 2011."

The way that the volunteers conversed during both of these tests, fell into a 'chatty', light-hearted pattern, with the audience reportedly enjoying the process.

In neither test was there a great deal of analytical thinking put into how to 'break' the bot, nor attempts made as to ask complex questions requiring logical replies. A test populated entirely by such questioners would generate a different outcome.

Though it is on the way, the current Cleverbot is not designed to handle such logic - it is designed to imitate human chat.

A claim of an actual pass would be ambiguous and is open to endless debate.

The outcome of the Techniche 2011 event was that Cleverbot came very close to passing a 'chatty participants' Turing Test. It was sufficiently rigorous in that regard to be a valid result.

john said...

Right I've stopped that at once now.

nobody said...

Hey John, and yeah, I actually read about that a while ago and I recall the programmers dealing with the bot's inability to carry on a coherent conversation by instructing it to, if in doubt, blurt out nonsense. And I got precisely that. In fact the point at which I bailed came when, in response to whatever my question was, it said (apropos nothing) 'Tomato sauce?' But that was merely the final straw for me since it had already done something very similar several times.

As for Jeff Wells, I recall his last piece being virtually unintelligible. It was beautifully written, but really it was too much and was somewhat, I don't know... nebulous? I wasn't quite sure what he was on about. I suspect we're in the same ballpark here. And no I haven't read it yet. I guess I will but my first stab wasn't very successful with the whole thing feeling like homework. Anyway, I'll try again.

john said...

These chatbots are news to me nobody, I'm always the last to know. Have I missed anything else?

I'm surprised that it passed the test and those high results. I would've thought the random responses would give it away to more people. I will be interested to see how they develop though. When they start making sense we'll have to watch out.

Jeff Wells doesn't write for about a year and then it's about 11,000 words, it's all or nothing with him. Mind you he probably won't write again for another year now. I like a bit of concision meself. Beautiful turns of phrase and all that but difficult to get hold of the overall meaning for me. I'm not sure I have the will for it all.

Well off again. Hope all going good where you are nobody.

nobody said...

Exactly. As for me, well enough I guess. I'm trying to buy a high-top van (something I can stand up in) but there aren't many out there and it seems to be taking forever. I just want to get on with it. Anyway, one of these days...

su said...

The 9th image gave me goosebumps.
Those empty spaces where the light is.
How many banquets, births, deaths did this space witness.
Now returned to emptiness -
which even in so called decay holds so much allure.

Nice to bump into you again.
And to witness this landscape through your eyes.

john said...

Cheers nobody and su,
soon hopefully nobody. It's nice to see you writing again anyway. I was at a festival earlier on in the summer and very much enjoyed looking at all the lovely vans and trucks that people had. Someone even brought what appeared to be a very new german fire truck of some sort, a huge great thing.

Hi su and thanks, the castle has plenty of history. I am glad that some of the feel of the place has managed to get into the photographs, it is quite a place. I hope the internet and news from around the world is not getting you down too much. So many terrible things, I wish it would end. cheers for now.

john said...

I think it was a Mercedes 1300L

nobody said...

Oh hello John. Sorry I didn't reply, I've been arse up, head down for the last week.

And yes, there's lots of fabulous vehicles out there. In Oz the RV thing is huge. Mostly they're 'grey nomads' which is to say retired people who travel about a lot.

It's insane what you can buy if you have enough money. There's even these James Bond buses that have pneumatic extending rooms that come out the side. And all you need is half a million bucks! Otherwise a bog standard (but pretty plush really) campervan could easily cost anywhere between $50K to $100K. Yeah well, that's me out of there.

What with not having much luck with my $15K I'll have to turn some 'must haves' into 'not so necessary after alls' if you know what I mean. Things like being able to stand up straight. So I have to stand with my head bowed. It will only matter when I'm cooking and who does that heads-up-eyes-forward? No one. You always have your tilted, eyes down. And low mileage. I ain't going to get that neither. It's what comes with a limited budget. Or to put it another way: being poor.

Sideways now - do you ever watch QI John? Are you a fan? What with not having watched any TV apart from sport for the last five years I'd completely missed the whole thing. Anyway I've downloaded several seasons via frostwire now (don't tell anyone) and I'm absolutely in love with it. My kind of show. Bill Bailey and Alan Davies as a double act makes my day. They don't actually have to say anything - they can just sit there mugging and it cracks me up.

john said...

Cheers nobody. I think I have been a bit late here too. I have a 14 day comment moderation (off again now) so I can keep an eye on what happens on older posts (not a lot) but also to remind myself to get on with it.

I did wonder about the standing up in the van thing. A friend here has a van she can stand up in but she is a lot shorter than me and as you've noticed, you don't really spend a lot of time standing up in a van.

There is a way that people have found to get round this though and that is to have a not huge van containing a bag with a really big tent in it.

This is good because the really big tent can be stood up in and increases the potential grooving about space by a very large factor. I noticed with these big tents that although they look large from the outside they actually seem really huge on the inside and probably don't cost as much as a really big van.

john said...

I don't know what you can do about the low mileage though, Australia does look like it has a lot of miles between places which might rule out the pottering about you can do in a small country, so you might have to settle on a particular direction or something. I'm only guessing here having no real experience of anywhere big.

It's possible that there are large parts of your country that you never want to see or you have specific places in mind. Probably best not to do to much too-ing and fro-ing. Anyway, it's your country as much as it's anybodys and I expect you have an idea of where you want to go.

john said...

I don't watch a lot of tv but I have seen some QI. I'm not a huge fan of Stephen Fry mostly because he's too chummy with royalty for my tastes but I like the way that 'knowing stuff' is encouraged for a change.

Bill Bailey is always good fun, I used to watch him in Black Books which was good but did tail off towards the end. QI is good to watch with people, as it has 'joining in' possibilities though our favourite for that is University Challenge, though those young minds give us a run for our money. Anyway there are definitely quite a few laughs to be had with QI

john said...

Mind you, after thinking about it, if I'd been watching nothing but sport for five years I'd be very, very glad of IQ

nobody said...

Hullo John, you've certainly nailed it on the van. Of course the tent. I'd initially wanted to have the van as a 'stealth van' ie. I can park it in a carpark and look no different to any run-of-the-mill delivery van, say. That's why I wasn't interested in a pop top etc. But a tent lives in a bag which I get out when camping is neither here nor there. So that breaks up the routine.

Otherwise, say I am confined to the van, do I really need to stand up straight. I was making dinner the other night (theoretically the only reason I'd need to stand in the van) and you don't do it standing up straight. You stand head up, eyes forward and your dinner becomes a mad woman's breakfast, ha ha. Of course you stand with your head down. To that end, I'm going back to the Mercedes Sprinter. There's tons of them, they have a great rep, the ideal seat-access-to-rear layout I want, and the prices are do-able.

As for QI, I just saw an ep last night featuring Ronnie Ancona. Good God, what a wit. I was so speechless I could barely laugh.

And Fry. It's tough to know what to make of him. I do get bored with the relentless gay thing. And really just too toffee for himself. But he fulfills the function, and well enough. He certainly doesn't get off lightly. There's any number of guests who stick knives in him, and right up to the hilt. To be honest, it's a wonder that he's able to troop on and not lose it. Mind you, I recall him losing his smile and changing the subject when Dara O'Briain (who's very good) tore the shit out of his jolly discussion of why exactly the military of the British empire were so good. It's not easy to make a joke about the mass-starvation of the Irish, but he pulled it off.

Oh, and mate, have you been over to the church lately? It's me up to my elbows in blood etc (the usual) but in amongst it I put on a party and you were invited. If you want to cut to the chase here it is. You look very good in there John. Most dignified. And if you look carefully Ollie Reed snuck in uninvited. I won't say it was you what brung him but it's fine. As long as he doesn't get too boisterous and break the furniture, he's perfectly welcome.

john said...

The Mercedes Sprinter looks a good size. It makes sense to get a van that there's lots of as it's then easy to get parts for them. Also to be considered if you want a stealth van is to get a colour that is inconspicuous, which is white in this country.

Ronnie Ancona is certainly talented and is also rather attractive too. Generally from what I've seen of it QI is a bit male heavy, Frys gayness doesn't bother me at all and I don't find he overdoes it too much. It is an entertaining program.

Yes I was over at your place and had a good laugh at the picture (which I downloaded) and did notice Oliver Reed. You have a good memory! I always get a slightly anxious feeling when I see my whole name anywhere, not that I keep it a secret and I find that most people are so busy being obsessed with their own stuff that they're very incurious about me which I am happy about.

I had to chuckle when you said about the number of hits per day for a small blog, as mine are between 15 to 25 a day, with people mostly looking for paintings of atomic bombs, Michael Maier and Vernon Hills calendar.

I haven't seen this John Friend around really, our paths haven't crossed except at your place now. You seem to be getting quite a lot of shit for it. His behavior stats sound very suspect as does the fact he would be getting attention when so many others don't.

I remember asking your opinion of the possibility of fake footage but you weren't able to look at videos then I think, much of it is very poor quality (though I have been intrigued by the spire that seems to turn to dust) To me the no-plane theory wouldn't make any sense. Plane one to get the attention, plane two for the spectacular footage. It is meant to be a media spectacular. There are no good reasons why real planes wouldn't be used.

The pentagon is a slightly different matter and could be very easily resolved if the US Govt released some of the many confiscated tapes, if they have nothing to hide why are these tapes not available?

To me the no-plane theory is an utter waste of time and a huge distraction because there is so much that's already wrong with the official narrative that to bring no planes into it is pointless, unless as a distraction and to undermine 911 truth.

A while ago I gave up looking at 911 stuff because I have spent enough time on it to satisfy myself beyond any possible doubt that there was any way it could've happened the way the official version states. The no plane theory adds nothing of any use.

john said...

john said...

The stock markets fell off a cliff today.

nobody said...

The stock markets crashed? Okay, I'm off down the bank to pull out all my money. And yes, I know I'm not meant to have one but I didn't really have a choice what with having to do the old man's will and probate etc. The intention was always to empty it but I've been lazy. I shall get off my arse now.

Hmm, perhaps I shall change from my Thai fisherman's pant and red 'Chavez Revolution' t-shirt. I don't want to freak them out.

And I'm glad you told me about your anxiety about your full name. I'd often wondered about it myself and figured since you used it here you thought little of it. I was also concerned that perhaps you didn't care for 'English John' which I used as an act of presumptuousness.

I'd call you John but as I wrote over at the haiku blog there's too bloody many of them. But it's all good. It's as nothing for me to quickly type something else in there.Perfectly happy. What name would you like? It's up to you.

Of course, I'll just call you John when we're not public and use John+ when I'm at my blog.

As for blog hits, Aangirfan gets 2000-3000 a day. Kenny likewise I'm thinking. Les Visible would be up at 10,000 odd. WRH in multiples of that, perhaps the six figures. That's pretty big.

And a white van. Absolutely.

Cheers mate. Drop us a line here so I know how to amend the dinner invitation, ha ha.

john said...

Cheers nobody and thanks.

English John would be fine until another one turns up then I could be Old English John then if another turns up I could be Bronze Age John or something. Yes it's my own fault for choosing such a rare internet name. Maybe I'll change my blue name to John F at some point which might help a bit. Anyway thanks for the invite I look forward to meeting all the aangirfans and everybody else too.

john said...

Blimey I'm so late with my blog this month. I think I might get some photos of what summer looked like up soon as it's becoming Autumn now. Cheers for now.