John Dunn

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Traps and ramifications

Saturday, 9 October 2021 at 22:14

AA Road Book on Dr John Dunn. Traps and ramifications

There follows a quaint piece from an AA Road Book of about 1920. I like it because it clings to the all-important link between cycling and the early motoring era. Touring cyclists reinvigorated the old turnpike road system of the coaching and pre-steam train era, bringing to life some of the ailing coaching inns along the way. The transition from cycling to motoring was not a break for everyone, but rather a transition, indicated by the value placed upon maps by cyclists, which transferred readily to a motoring context. I liken the new “public” of motorists, who never had a cycling apprenticeship, to the new generation of motorists today, who slavishly follow their sat-navs without a clue to their whereabouts, or knowledge of the innumerable alternative routes that are available on those strange and mysterious things called maps.

AA Road Book

Within the terms of years allotted to a single generation the motor-car, the motor-bicycle, and the motor-coach have revolutionised touring in England and Wales. Motorists of to-day who were cyclists of yesterday start with some advantage, and as these are many, when they took to themselves a car they were well primed against the traps that the road sets for the unwary and also in the ramifications of the road, which make veritable mazes of some English counties, as Kent, Surrey, and Sussex. But as motoring waxed cycling waned, so that with motorists developing from a class into a public many of the new motorists, denied the educational advantages of the now-despised push-bicycle, find themselves in a new world.

© John Dunn.

Love and False Redemption

Thursday, 7 October 2021 at 22:16

Climbing the scala on Dr John Dunn. Whatever was I thinking! I suppose you might call this freestyle... with attempted rhyme, amongst other things. Yes inspired by the Golden Girl, but also afield of golden wheat near the turning for Glympton Park, near Rowsham Gap; and also by the sculpture Fire Cross, by Graham Carey.

Love and False Redemption.

In the Scala by John Climacus, the twenty third step is
on mad pride and unclean and unmentionable thoughts.

Climbing, ever nearer, reaching step twenty three,
My lost and lonely way did wind and curl;
I was searching for her who would save me,
For a sight of the Golden Girl.

My eyes fell upon a field of wheat, so pliant before the wind.
But my face felt the breeze as a brutal caress
And as I started to undress
I thought of all the times I’d sinned.

I fell into that golden sea
And rolled and crushed those ripened ears.
My madness bare for all to see,
I dismissed all the usual fears.

Scratched and reddened by the ripened wheat
I turned to face the vale below.
Winnowed in the wind and rising to my feet,
I screamed out loud - my Golden Girl, my Golden Girl,
Only you will know.

My scream was a kestrel released to the sky,
It hung, an aural cross on high,
Symbolic of my own despair,
Echoing across the vale,
Carried to the garden where
Each scream was felt as a driven nail
By the Golden Girl.

She cut my words down from the cross
And laid them on the ground.
She kissed each one so tenderly and, without a sound,
She organised them patiently, caressing them so gently
That the meaning rose for all to see,
My Golden Girl, My Golden Girl, I’m found.

I thought I was saved
By the Golden Girl, in pride before the fall.
But I was enslaved
By her mocking eyes and I was in her thrall.
Subjected to her flying flail,
My pleas echoed across the vale,
My pleas rang out to no avail,
And she brushed me off,
My Golden Girl, my Golden Madonna.
Like a husk in the scattered chaff,
I was blown off the Scala.

© John Dunn.

No Loss of Discernment

Wednesday, 6 October 2021 at 20:48

Desert hermit on Dr John Dunn. Some other person wrote this poem; a man from a different time, when people read other things called books. Some other person wrote this poem. He was living through a period of great change, when the old views were challenged, and new perspectives pushed their way in. It was a time of great realisation and danger- yes danger; everything might have been lost. He was close to death, which probably meant he was close to new life. Is close near enough? Is close all that is possible? "Gift of life" indeed.

No Loss of Discernment

I hold a secret, a solitude of my being,
Which God alone can penetrate and understand.

Being apart from the mass of other men,
Leaves me able to love others as I ought.

I am aware that false solitude is self-centred.
And no longer shrink from the good things in life
Or other lives, because I need not possess them.

My soul is drawn towards the desert,
But I no longer object to life in the city.

I will not travel far unless I leave my words behind,
For silence is the destination.

If I poured my life out in useless words,
There’d be nothing to hear from the depth of my heart.

Loving God leads me to love the silence,
For there will be no loss of discernment.

I’ll avoid chatter, and not fear life as if it were death,
For silence makes death a servant and friend.

As the eloquence of death and human poverty
Confront the riches of divine mercy,
I discern the risen Lord and his gift of life
in the depth of my soul.

© John Dunn.

Un Livre

Tuesday, 5 October 2021 at 21:46

Book explosion on Dr John Dunn. It is a strange feeling to come across a poem that you have composed, and yet have long since forgotten. I have no idea when or where I came across the words by Mallarmé that prompted this effort; and effort it must have been, given the complexity of ideas, no matter what you might think of it as a poetic piece.

Un Livre

Head tail and fore-edge turn as one cover
On a life-canto and, like church bells in
Thunder the familiar becomes strange.
The darkness I confront alone rings out
As a breaking wave on the shore that lays
Itself across the sands for the beach to
Inspect, at the turning point, before it
Scurries back to the deep. The sea petals
Opened and you rose erect to release
The bird, wings on fire, screaming as it fell
Into the sea. It was a brief exchange
Of souls. Lips kissed the dahlia shadow,
Yet drew back from the squeezed head of black seeds.
Tout au monde existe pour aboutir à un livre—
The mystery the grace and all the universe.

"Tout, au monde, existe pour aboutir à un livre." "Everything in the world exists in order to end up in a book" Stéphane Mallarmé.

© John Dunn.

The Turning

Monday, 4 October 2021 at 22:27

Farm St Kenox on Dr John Dunn. Written following my reverse pilgrimage from St David's to the Cleddau Vale in Pembrokeshire, back in 2013. A memorable journey.

Farm at St. Kenox. On the bridleway towards the ford across the Eastern Cleddau.

The Turning

The one to whom the dove was sent, forgive me,
It hurts to retrace the pilgrimage path from the shrine.
There was no awareness of existence in
The life of the everyday, until Aidan
Into the Cleddau Vale could let truth shine.
Was it guilt or chance that led him there?
Did Non look upon this same stone cross in the round,
And were her thoughts upon the struggle of birth?
And was death preached upon the tump at St Kenox?
Aenon’s baptismal pool beheld more faith
Than all the cathedrals of Christendom had dared.
The cooling spring will wash away presumptions,
No longer now the unspoken may remain
A mystery, though long it has been veiled.
                    the great forgetting,
                                                    the turning.
I’d rather have my books, exclaimed Faustus.
I’ll gather around me great numbers of teachers to say
What my itching ears want to hear; and then turn away
From the truth and look instead aside to myths.
And the shadow of the wingéd dove brushed his face.


A dove alighted upon the shoulder of St David as a symbol of God’s grace.
There is a shrine to St David at St David’s cathedral.

Karl Jaspers insisted that our awareness of existence is not revealed in everyday life but only when we encounter our limits: in death, struggle, guilt or chance.

St Aidan lived and studied at the St David’s monastery. He brought Christianity to Llawhaden and the valley of the eastern Cleddau. Llawhaden was on the pilgrimage route to St David’s.

St Non, the mother of St David. The round cross can be seen in the chapel on the site where she gave birth to St David.

A dissenter lived and preached in what is now the working farm at St Kenox.

The baptismal pool is still to be seen near the roadside at Aenon Baptist Church, South Pembrokeshire.

Scarcely permitted is it to awaken the dead.
No longer now the unspoken
May remain a mystery
Though long it has been veiled;

(Hölderlin, Germania)

The uncanniness of human beings is that they alone are capable of "catastrophe," in the sense of a reversal turning them away from their own essence.
(Martin Heidegger)

These metaphysics of magicians
And necromantic books are heavenly.
(Christopher Marlow’s Faustus)

Instead,to suit their own desires, they will gather around them great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.
(II Timothy 4.3-4)

© John Dunn.

Gosserie on Blogger

Sunday, 3 October 2021 at 23:05

Gosse father and son on Dr John Dunn. Gosserie on Blogger

Newly posted on my Blogger website Gosserie,the latest in a series of posts detailing the content of my Gosse (father and son) book and ephemera collection. This latest blog describes a volume entitled Natural History: Birds.

I understand my collection to be the most complete outside of the academic libraries,and one to which I still need to add works.

The more I learn about P. H. Gosse, the more I am amazed at his accomplishments. Best known for his books on natural history, he also wrote many books on religious subjects. His drawing and watercolour skills were second to none, most often providing illustrative support to his own written words, but not exclusively. As a young man he was an adventurer, travelling far in remote parts of North America in pursuit of his passion for natural history. He was the leader of a small community of the Plymouth Brethren, and unfailing in his zeal for the literal readingof the Bible, confronting the findings of Darwin head on with his own rebuttal of evolutionary theory.

In short, this polymath without formal education produced books worth collecting. Gosserie is a record of my own collecting progress.

© John Dunn.

Wool and turnpike to Radcot

Friday, 1 October 2021 at 21:28

Thames bridge on Dr John Dunn. Radcot Bridge c.1200

Wool and turnpike to Radcot

Tomorrow I will publish the latest of my motorcycling videos, which is about an important old road. It is in fact about the Burford to Faringdon road, which was critical, in the medieval era, to the exporting of wool from the Cotswold area to the continent. A stone bridge over the Thames. built by monks, was central to the old roads success, and also laid the foundations for the road's continued success into the turnpike era.

The publication of the video on YouTube will be announced first on this website on the 1st October.

What follows is the commentary to accompany the video production, and will be posted as subtitles for those who need them.

On my Royal Enfield again - this time on the busy A40 at Burford in Oxfordshire, looking to turn off right to Carterton.

I’m now riding my motorcycle down the most important road in England, well,that might well have been the case back in the middle ages, when wool production and wool exports to the continent were at the height of their importance to the economy, that is, back in the days when the wool barons financed the building of the great and famous so-called wool churches of the Cotswolds and East Anglia.

This road was important because it was the route by which the wool produced in the Cotswolds was transported southwards to the channel ports for export; so important that King John ensured that a stone bridge across the Thames was built at Radcot to facilitate the movement of this vital export commodity.

If not the most important road by the eighteenth century, long after the export of wool had passed its peak, King John’s bridge ensured that the road retained its importance as a north-south route. Indeed, the road was turnpiked as the Faringdon and Burford Turnpike in 1771.

These days the road I’m riding on is the B4020,becoming the A4095 at Clanfield and remaining so until Faringdon south of the Thames and the Radcot Bridge.

The turnpike days ended in the 1880s. Nevertheless, there is evidence of the old turnpike at the heart of today’s Carterton, and it is this that I will be seeking out.

The first evidence is this old milestone, erected by the Faringdon & Burford Turnpike Trust in the 19th century. It once had an iron plate upon which was inscribed Burford 3 Faringdon 8 miles.

When that old milestone was erected back in the eighteen hundreds there was nothing around here. The old turnpike road wended its way across a flat open plain. Carterton did not exist.

The biggest change to hit the old road happened in 1894 when land was acquired by Homesteads Limited whose director was William Carter. Plots of land with bungalows were sold, and this initial development was the seed of what flourished to become the town of Carterton, by the late 20th century, one of the largest towns in Oxfordshire.

I’m now riding to seek out the second of the two surviving milestones in Carterton.

And not surprisingly, it is one mile further down the road, aptly enough, opposite Milestone Road. Again, this now rather paltry looking thing once had an iron plate, upon which was inscribed, Burford 4 miles Faringdon 7.

There it is, not much to look at, but a monument to an important old road.

I’m setting off, back up the road that I’ve just travelled along. I have no choice.

Carterton's later growth was closely related to the expansion of Brize Norton airbase, opened in 1937.

The runways were built right across the old road, which necessitates the by-passing of Carterton to the west of the town through the village of Alvescot.

Travelling as I am, north to south, after Carterton, the old road is not resumed until I reach the junction to Black Bourton.Just here - so now I’m back on the old turnpike road.

However, from long before the turnpike era, there is an ancient survivor from the most important wool years of the Milddle Ages, the bridge commanded to be built by King John over the Thames, the bridge I mentioned earlier called Radcot Bridge, today the oldest bridge over the Thames.

And after passing through the village of Clanfield - here we are, approaching Radcot, with its three bridges. And here’s firstly Pidwell Bridge. Then the canal bridge of 1787.

And here it is, Radcot Bridge itself, built not long after 1200, the oldest bridge over the Thames, built for packhorses, but today carrying modern traffic.

In1202 King John had granted lands between the river and Faringdon to the Cistercian Order for the construction of a new abbey. Whilst the abbey was never built the present stone bridge was probably the work of Cistercian monks and their masons.

I went back for another look.

Here’s the bridge, just wide enough for packhorses, which means traffic lights for today’s traffic.

Back over the Radcot Bridge of 1200.

And now for a closer look.

The old bridge has three pointed arches, the pointed Gothic arches with strengthening ribs typical of Early English churches of that period, and the niche at the top of the bridge could have could have held an effigy of the Virgin Mary.

Wool was the mainstay of the English economy in the Middle Ages, and crossings of the upper Thames were important since it was the main natural barrier between the wool towns on the Cotswolds and the export markets across the Channel. Packhorse trains from Burford would find Radcot a convenient point to bridge the river en route for Faringdon, and further south to the channel ports.

Once over the Thames at Radcot, it was but a short ride into Faringdon, a town with a rich transport history and many route options. But that is material for another video sometime.

For now I’m done.

© John Dunn.

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